The project, sponsored by the European Union, started approximately two months ago and it will conclude at the end of April. The focus of the collaboration was particularly on the Mole National Park, Ghana’s largest wildlife refuge, covering an area of 4 840 km2.
Since 2015, NUST and Bushskies Aerial Photography - a Namibian company specialising in aerial surveys, have partnered in developing specialised techniques to count wildlife over large areas. “Knowing the sizes of wildlife populations is important for conservation and sustainable management strategies. Our experience and knowledge in this field made us the ideal candidates to survey a premier national park of this kind,” remarked Dr Hauptfleisch. A number of ground-based studies facilitated by the use of motion-triggered camera traps and ranger surveys, have already been conducted during this exercise.
An aerial count was last done in 2006, and therefore, an aircraft is currently on route from Accra to survey the entire park. “This park is very important in the West African wildlife sector, as it contains healthy populations of species in a region under tremendous poaching and human development pressure,” Dr Hauptfleisch added.
So far, the team has surveyed large breeding populations of indigenous West African herbivores, such as kob, defassa waterbuck, buffalo, western hartebeest and roan antelope. Elephants are also quite common.
Through the deployment of infrared camera traps, the team was able to confirm the presence of a number of carnivores, including leopard, spotted hyena and civet. Four species of primates have also been recorded.
The park is hoping to use this information to apply for UNESCO World Heritage status. NUST is hopeful that the project will lead to a long-term relationship, where students and researchers from Namibia and Ghana can share expertise and resources to preserve the continent’s unique wildlife.