Scientists exploring a tropical forest in Western Africa have discovered two rare species of primates, eight new species of katydids, 17 rare butterfly species, wild birds such as the brown-cheeked hornbill and a critically endangered frog species.
The findings came from a 2006 expedition to Ghana's Atewa Range Forest Reserve (Atewa) led by Conservation International's Rapid Assessment Program and were presented in a report made public Thursday.
"While this forest has long been known to harbor a high number of species and to serve as an essential source of water for local villages and for Accra, it is only recently that the global importance of this reserve has been confirmed," said Okyeame Ampadu-Agyei, an expedition member in Ghana associated with Conservation International, which led the expedition. "We must quickly take action to protect the incredible diversity of Atewa for future generations and to prevent the extinction of the 36 globally threatened species that we know to live in Atewa."
The discoveries include a critically endangered frog species (Conraua derooi) whose presence in Atewa may represent the last viable population in the world, an unusually high 22 species of large mammals and six species of primates including two species that are of global conservation concern: Geoffroy's pied colobus (Colobus vellerosus) and the olive colobus (Procolobus verus).
Butterfly species found include the Papilio antimachus, which has the widest wingspan in the work. Also the Mylothris atewa, which is found nowhere else in the world and has been proposed as globally critically endangered.
From June 6 to June 24, 2006, a team of 22 scientists, post-graduate students and assistants from Ghana and abroad surveyed the 58,472 acre Atewa tract in south-eastern Ghana. The scientists found an intact forest ecosystem, which is unusual and significant for West Africa, where most forests are highly fragmented and disturbed.
Established as a national forest reserve in 1926, and since designated as one of Ghana's Globally Significant Biodiversity Areas, Atewa's importance has long been recognized because it contains the headwaters of three river systems, essential sources of domestic, agricultural and industrial water for local communities and many of Ghana's major population centers, including Accra.
In their final report, scientists called for the government to upgrade the area's protection status such as to a National Park, create a buffer zone around the park and develop a management plan that includes conversation measures and economic development strategies compatible with conservation goals.