The Government, through the Wildlife Division (WD) of the Forestry Commission has signed an agreement with three other entities in an effort towards the protection and preservation of the Western Sitatunga in the Avu Lagoon Protected Area.
The agreement signed on Friday involved the WD, the Development Institute (DI), the Calgary Zoological Society (CZS) and the Avu Lagoon Community Resources Management Areas (CREMA) Board.
The agreement was accompanied with the presentation of GH¢540,000.00 cheque to the Development Institute to facilitate the preservation of the Western Sitatunga species and other fauna and flora in the area.
Sitatunga, which belongs to the antelope family, is the world’s only known amphibious antelope, but much bigger. It is said to be about the size of a cow and has the ability to walk on marshy vegetation and escape under water.
Ms Donna Sheppard, the Community Conservation Specialist with Calgary Zoo, who presented the cheque to DI said the partnership dated back to 2005, when she discovered the Western Sitatunga in the area.
She said the success of the preservation and protection of the almost extinct sitatunga would raise more revenue for the country since tourists would be interested in visiting the area on frequent basis and noted that the partnership included a careful, long term protection, study and monitoring of wildlife and habitats in the Avu Lagoon.
She said it would also bring about environmentally-friendly socio-economic benefits, improved livelihood and revenue generating schemes to assist the indigenes and the country at large.
Ms Sheppard said the project required development of local capacity and financial sustainability to enable self-governance by the local community adding that success in the project required a long term commitment over one or more decades to generate sustained benefits for both wildlife and community people.
Togbui Allegah III, Chief of Xavi and Chairman of the Avu Lagoon CREMA Board appreciated the efforts to conserve nature and pledged the commitment of the 15 communities in the catchment area towards the project.
He said the community people embraced the idea of conservation and protection of the environment, the plants and animals in the area and noted that Avu Lagoon CREMA was established in 2005 and has since involved 15 communities in awareness creation, conserving the environment and protecting the vulnerable sitatunga and other wild animals.
He said the Lagoon, located in Akatsi South and South Tongu districts and Keta Municipality in the Volta Region was raised by Nature Conservation Research Centre, a non-profit organisation for some years, until it was revitalised by Calgary Zoo with its partners.
Nana Kofi Adu-Nsiah, the Executive Director of the WD called for a fairness and transparency in the usage of the financial support towards the project to ensure that all the 15 communities in the three districts benefited and urged DI, the fund managers for the project to ensure that the project relieved both the animals and the people of the community.
Mr Ken Kinney, the Executive Director of DI said there was surety that the activities of all partners would be well-coordinated and pledged the commitment of the Institute to equitably distribute the fund towards the achievement of the overall objective of the project.