In 2019, Ghana experienced a surge in tourist interest after the launch of “The Year of Return” a program that promised visitors especially African Americans a unique connection to their ancestral roots through curated tours of Ghana’s rich historical past. As African-American celebrities flocked to Ghana in droves, it piqued the interest of others from around the world and propelled Ghana as a great tourist destination. With that came a plethora of publicity highlighting Ghana’s great tourist sites including, slave forts, the canopy walk, and the monkey sanctuary among others but not once did I hear about Ghana’s hippo sanctuary.
Yes, Ghana has a hippo sanctuary; the Wechiau Hippopotamus Sanctuary, which currently houses an average of approximately 50 hippos. This number is impressive because in 1998/2000, the sanctuary had only two to four hippos and just in two short decades, the average number has increased more than 10 times.
So, why is this “find” so important? Well, hippopotami are an endangered species. According to an article by biologoicaldiversity.org, the African hippopotamus is facing a high risk of extinction and is fast disappearing. The few remaining species are under incessant threats of poaching for parts such as skin, teeth, skulls, ivory, and even for its meat (imagine that) and they face other dangers from habitat loss and degradation.
Located in the Upper West Region of Ghana, the Wechiau Hippopotamus Sanctuary is a community-based conservation initiative led by regional chiefs and community leaders with the collective aim of protecting the species and ecotourism. The tranquil Black Volta River that borders Ghana/Burkina Faso is the habitat for the hippopotamus and the Wechiau Sanctuary provides visitors with a serene canoe ride and an educational tour to the location of groups of Hippos.
This initiative is laudable for several reasons; currently, Hippos around the world are slaughtered as trophies and for commercial trading posing a real threat to the extinction of the animals. The Wechiau Hippopotamus Sanctuary provides a safe haven for the animal population to grow and thrive, thus safeguarding them from extinction. In addition, the Sanctuary provides jobs for locals in the area and is a great site for tourists from around the world and other regions of Ghana.
Next time you think about touring sites in Ghana, consider Wechiau Hippopotamus Sanctuary, an hour’s flight from the capital city Accra the Wechiau. Once in the Northern region of Ghana, in addition to the Hippo Sanctuary, there is a range of tourist sites to consider including the Mole National Park, Laribanga Mosque, and Mognori Eco-village among others.
Finally, I think that in this age of corporate social responsibility, foreign entities doing business in Ghana should consider supporting initiatives such as the Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary.
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