The Shai Hills is located in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. It is a one hour journey from Accra and located on the main road between Accra and the Volta Region. It is advisable to go with a bottle of water, wear strong walking shoes and shorts to aid your trip in the forest.
DESCRIPTION OF THE BIODIVERSITY
The reserve consists of beautiful attractive range of rocky hills set in the middle of expansive open and wooded grassland plains. It is about fifty-one square metres . The rock is visible in many places along the hills as impressive and steep cliffs and large and attractive rocky outcrops.
At present, the reserve supports baboons, butterflies, hyenas, medicinal plants, snakes, butterflies and about one hundred and thirty species of birds. There are two ostriches that were brought from South Africa to the reserve.The reserve has about four natural holes with fishes , some crocodiles were introduced from a zoo into one of the holes but they all escaped. The guard explained that they couldn’t adapt to the the new homes or look food hence they escaped.
There are also snakes in the forest but guards remain silent when they spot a snake to prevent scaring the tourists.
Baboons are territorial animals that will aggressively defend their territory and family against other baboons and predators. The baboons are omnivorous hence we feed them with ground nuts, banana and” bofloat.” If you want a baboon to come close to you then remember to take along some bananas or food with you. The baboons sometimes enter people’s kitchen and steal food.
It is easy to spot a baboon even along the road side, one can see a troop of baboons walking along the road. They are very friendly as they will walk to any tourist and pick food from their hands.
The Shai people are known to have migrated from Nigeria and settled in Shai about BC 10,000 years.The soil is clayey in nature and bad for farming hence the people were involved in pottery.There are evidence of broken pottery and even pottery from India collected from the reserve.There are several cave systems in the hills, some of which have played and continue to play an important role in local history, culture and tradition of the people.
The ancestral people lived in caves , usually close to baobab trees.One could identify the location of a leader or the king’s compound through the situation of a particular tree.The people used to attack and kill traders who pass through the forest.They steal their wares, kill them and use them as rituals. The new generation of the Shai people are not happy about the bad image hence have erased that part of the story from the history. The Shai people celebrate their festival in September and the people are allowed once into the reserve to pay homage to their ancestral home.
MANAGEMENT OF THE PARK
The Shai Hill Resource reserve is under the Wildlife and Forestry Division. The labour force is about twenty – six .There are tour guides that send tourist into the reserve. Foreigners pay 30 Ghana Cedis and Ghanaian adults pay 16 cedis for 2 hours tour in the reserve.Students pay less.
There are also guards who protect the reserve from poaching activities. We met a nice guard who told us the history of the park and even names of the some trees in the forest. At least we remember Azadirachta indica,which is the scientific name for Neem tree . The place is opened from 6a.m till 5pm. The reserve has a guest house and also accommodation for the workers.
The baboons are threatened by habitat loss loss. Close to the reserve is the Eastern Quarry and the company make a lot of noise from blasting of the rocks disturbing the baboons and also there is fear of encroachment of the reserve by the quarry activities.
The staff of the reserve are also not motivated enough to do their work. One guard explained that their work is dangerous and tiresome as they may be attacked by poachers or even dangerous animals. The are paid like 400 Ghana Cedis monthly which is not enough to take care of their family and even pay for school fees for their children. Some workers have left and others are threatening to leave and find a better job somewhere else. There are no training for the guards to build their capacity in the work they do.
Tourist that visit the site pollute the place with plastic and cans. Animals in the reserve may mistake it for food and swallow them.
THE WAY FORWARD
The way forward is educating future generations in conservation principles to foster a culture of conservation. The government and the management of the reserve should look at incorporating new technologies such as GIS to identify threats and lead to more effective conservation plans.
The staff must be motivated by providing them with incentives and good salary so that they can be happy with their job and provide better security to the reserve.Moreover if the salary is good more students will venture into studying or taking jobs in the wild life and forestry sector and this will go a long way to prevent the baboons from being endangered.
We recommend the Shai Hills Resource Reserve to everyone who loves nature.We are planning our next visit to another eco tourist site , you may suggest to us any nice place you want us to visit.