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Home » Ecotourism’s Potential to Protect West Africa’s Endangered Species

Ecotourism’s Potential to Protect West Africa’s Endangered Species

Bad news about West Africa’s rapidly declining biodiversity often seems endless, the result of forest destruction, poaching, poverty, etc. (Some Nigerian examples: Deforestation , Endangered chimps and Gorilla habitat). Not only are irreplaceable species and ecosystems being lost forever, but so too are many opportunities for tourism employment, entrepreneurship and government revenues. For remote regions, ecotourism is typically one of the few economic alternatives; its linkages to other economic sectors can be a firm foundation for overall economic advancement.

Biodiversity in West Africa is less well-known than in many other parts of Africa, but no less impressive. West Africa is home to one of Africa’s eight global biodiversity hotspots – the Guinean Forests. They include parts of 11 countries in West and Central Africa, with the Upper Guinean Forests
subregion ranging across seven members of the Economic Commission for West Africa (ECOWAS). At least 936 species of plants and animals there are globally threatened. Among West Africa’s endangered species is the pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis), with less than 2,500 estimated remaining in the wild, and living largely in Liberia’s Sapo National Park and bordering protected areas such as Gola Rainforest National Park in Sierra Leone and Taï National Park in Cote d’Ivoire. Other regional endangered species include Jentink’s duiker, the Diana monkey and chimpanzees. The Oban Division of Cross River National Park in Nigeria is itself believed to support over 1,000 butterfly species (Guinean forests).

West Africa

Solutions

Ecotourism potential for West Africa is frequently highlighted, but implementation has barely begun. At the regional level, ECOWAS created the ambitious ECOTOUR programme for overall tourism development, but progress has virtually disappeared (Last chance to protect African biodiversity). Faced with COVID,security issues, and many other challenges, this is perhaps not surprising, but the damage to West Africa’s remaining biodiversity has been devastating.
So what could be the solutions? A gradual, but steady, approach is perhaps essential, demonstrating both commitment and continuing progress. First is stakeholder discussions and cross-border initiatives, to find solutions to existing tourism- related issues. Much valuable information is publicly available here. 

Regional tourism organisations such as the West Africa Tourism Organisation (WATO) are a prime example of the multi-stakeholder cooperation and coordination that is required West Africa Tourism Immediate livelihood and employment options for deforestation must be found, for example, jobs as forest guardians and guides, paid training programmes to create ecotourism lodge employees, tourism entrepreneurs, etc.

At first glance, financing seems to be the major constraint. In reality, many sources for both development and conservation financing are available, but the binding constraint appears to be the lack of expertise at the local level to create funding-ready project proposals, followed by the lack of actual implementation. Here again, regional-level stakeholder cooperation and coordination are essential, including the sharing of information and expertise, and the creation of ad hoc groups to address specific issues.

west africa

Conclusion

At first glance, financing seems to be the major constraint. In reality, many sources for both development and conservation financing are available, but the binding constraint appears to be the lack of expertise at the local level to create funding-ready project proposals, followed by the lack of actual implementation. Here again, regional-level stakeholder cooperation and coordination are essential, including the sharing of information and expertise, and the creation of ad hoc groups to address specific issues.

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Author: Dale Honeck

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