Mr. Samuel Afari Dartey, the Chief Executive of the Forestry Commission, played host to an expert team from UNESCO and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) who are in the country to do an assessment on the candidature of Mole National Park as a World Heritage Site.
A world heritage site is a landmark which has been officially recognized by UNESCO. Such sites are selected on the basis of having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance and they are protected by international treaties.
Mole National Park used to be the tribal hunting grounds of the warrior ancestors of the Gonjas. However, the site was declared a Game Reserve in 1958 after independence. The Park is covers an area of about 457, 700 hectares and has enormous ecological importance.
Mr. Samuel Afari Dartey, the Chief Executive of Forestry Commission, in his opening remarks, highlighted the reasons for proposing Mole National Park as a World Heritage Site. He said it was based on some ecological importance, features of outstanding universal value (OUV), outstanding aesthetic importance and significant natural habitats. Mole National Park is the only place where wildlife can easily be viewed in large numbers and at close range.
Mr. Samuel Afari Dartey said that “The Park, covering an area of about 457, 700 hectares, is currently the most representative sample of the Guinea Savannah Woodland Ecosystem, including the Polzen Waterfalls, Jang Rock outcrops, and a wide variety of animal habitats”, he said.
The Chief Executive further mentioned that the Park had many species made up of 90 different mammals, 300 species of birds, nine amphibians,, 30 reptiles and 56 endemic butterfly species. Buffaloes, leopards, hyenas, roan antelopes as well as about 600 elephants are also found in the Park.
Touching on the economic relevance of the Park to surrounding communities, Mr. Afari Dartey mentioned that development in Mole National Park have a knock-on positive impact on the communities surrounding the Park. Mognori village, a community located on the southern-eastern border of the Mole National Park, had adopted ecotourism as a means of livelihood. He also mentioned that of the 187 staff of the Park, 90% of them are employed from the surrounding communities. The creation of the Park has therefore offered people who would have been otherwise unemployed, a reliable means of livelihood.
Mr. Oscar Mthimkhulu, an expert with the IUCN, said that Mole National Park would be assessed basically on three criteria, which would include the “superlative natural beauty, existing ongoing ecological processes and natural species on site”.
The Ghana Museums and Monuments Board has since January 2000, applied to UNESCO to ascribe the Park a world heritage status. When listed as a world heritage site, Mole National Park stands a great chance of becoming a major tourist attraction for the country.