Mole National Park: haven for conservation and ecotourism in Northern Region

Ghana, Northern region, Mole National Park. Elephants in Mole National Park drinking at water hole.

By Samuel SAM

Once upon a time, nestled in the lush savannah of northern Ghana, there existed a hidden gem known as Mole National Park. This sprawling wilderness, teeming with diverse flora and fauna, held within its borders a rich tapestry of life waiting to be discovered and protected.

The story of the park began decades ago when visionary conservationists and local communities joined forces to establish a sanctuary for the region’s unique wildlife. Through tireless efforts and unwavering dedication, the park was officially declared a protected area; setting the stage for a remarkable journey of growth and development.

As the years passed, Mole National Park became a beacon of hope for Ghana’s natural heritage; a haven for endangered species such as elephants, buffalo and antelope. Conservationists worked hand in hand with local communities to safeguard the park’s biodiversity, implementing innovative strategies to combat poaching, deforestation and habitat loss.

With each passing season the park flourished, its once-threatened ecosystems rebounding and thriving. Researchers marveled at the resilience of the park’s wildlife, documenting rare sightings of elusive species and uncovering new insights into the delicate balance of nature.

The story of Mole National Park is not just one of conservation but also a tale of empowerment and collaboration. Local communities living near the park found new opportunities in ecotourism – guiding visitors on safaris through the savannah, sharing their knowledge of the land and celebrating their cultural heritage.

Visitors from far and wide were drawn to the beauty and tranquility of Mole National Park, captivated by the sight of elephants roaming freely, birds soaring overhead and sunsets painting the sky in hues of gold and crimson. They came not only to witness the wonders of nature but also support the park’s conservation efforts, knowing that their presence helped sustain this precious ecosystem for generations to come.

As the sun set on another day at the park, a sense of peace and harmony settled over the land. The park stood as a testament to the power of community, the resilience of nature and the enduring spirit of conservation. And so the developmental story of Mole National Park continued, a narrative of hope, progress and the timeless bond between humanity and the natural world.

Mole National Park is Ghana’s largest and most prestigious protected area, located in the northwest of the country. It covers an area of 4,849 sq km and is home to a large variety of species: including 94 mammal species, over 300 bird species, 9 amphibian species and 33 reptile species. The park is best known for its elephants, with a population of about 600, as well as many primates, large and commonly seen mammals, and predators.

The park’s entrance is near the town of Larabanga and located on grassland savannah with ephemeral rivers Lovi and Mole flowing through it, leaving behind drinking holes in the long dry season. It has also been a beacon of hope for people of the Savannah Region, followed by the history of the Gonjas, Larabanga Mosque and the mystery surrounding it.

The park was established in 1958 and re-designated a National Park in 1971, representing a fairly undisturbed Guinea savannah ecosystem dominated by open savannah woodland. The park is managed by the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission and supported by corporate firms and individuals, as well as organisations such as the Mole Research Centre, Sustainable Tourism and Friends of Mole National Park.

Enhancing Domestic Tourism and Revenue Mobilization

Enhancing domestic tourism at Mole National Park can significantly contribute to economic growth in Ghana. As the country’s largest protected area, it is rich in biodiversity and ecotourism potential with over 90 animal and 300 bird species, and being home to 590 elephants. However, the park faces significant threats, with poaching being the number-one challenge. The United Nations (UN) Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna’s Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephants (CITES-MIKE) programme has provided support and trained staff to help curb the rampant killing of elephants and other wildlife at the park.

Mr. Ali Mahama, Mole National Park Manager, noted that support received from the CITES MIKE has for the past three years helped preserve and protect wildlife and vegetation at the park, resulting in a significant facelift for the facility. According to him, investing in infrastructure such as roads, accommodation and recreational facilities can attract more domestic tourists to the park. Efforts are being made to enhance the infrastructure, and more support is needed to achieve set goals.

Educating domestic tourists on the importance of conservation and role of ecotourism in supporting wildlife conservation can help promote sustainable tourism practices. Encouraging domestic tourists to participate in conservation efforts such as tree-planting, wildlife monitoring and anti-poaching activities can also help support the park’s conservation efforts.

Promoting the park’s unique wildlife and natural attractions through various marketing channels such as social media, travel agencies and tourism fairs can help attract more domestic tourists. Developing packages that cater to different domestic tourist segments such as families, adventure seekers and nature lovers can also help attract more domestic tourists, allowing the park management to generate more revenue for domestic and commercial investment and honouring their tax obligations.

Partnering with local communities around the park can help promote community-based tourism and support local economic development. Encouraging local communities to participate in tourism activities such as guiding, cultural performances and handicraft production can help create employment opportunities and promote sustainable tourism practices, said tourism lecturer Mr. Yahaya Ahassan.

He stressed that regularly monitoring and evaluating the impact of tourism on the park’s wildlife and natural resources can help ensure sustainable tourism practices. Developing a monitoring and evaluation framework that tracks the number of domestic tourists, revenue generate, and impact on wildlife and natural resources can help inform decision-making and ensure sustainable tourism development.

Mole National Park Manager Mr. Ali Mahama said in an interview that several efforts have been put in place to boost domestic tourism, with guards assigned to various parts of the park to safeguard wildlife. The park received a €600,000 grant from the MIKE Secretariat to aid in the implementation of key law enforcement and park-based activities under a programme themed ‘Protecting Priority Populations of Elephants and other Target Species’.

“The grant, disbursed over a period of three years, has supported enhancement of the park’s capacity through training junior and senior staff. It also reactivated the dormant Wildlife Division Mobile Training Unit and provided refresher training for 75 Mole Park Rangers, in addition to providing specialised training for 17 law enforcement managers in the use of SMART software, Geographic Information Systems and other important areas,” he said.

“The grant also supported equipping and resourcing the park’s rangers with a Toyota 4×4 Land Cruiser vehicle, Motorola communication handsets and repeater systems at Konkori and Hega, supply of field gear and regular provision of food and other patrol inputs to support extended and special operations within the park,” he added.

He said initiatives by government – such as ‘Beyond the Return’, ‘Eat Ghana and Wear Ghana’, among other tourism promotions – have boosted domestic tourism. Despite the commitment by management to ensure the park’s maintenance and protection, logistics have been a major concern – making it difficult for tour guides and security personnel to embark on routine checks around the park. He therefore appealed for more support.

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