Human activities degrade hippopotamus homes at Bui National Park, Ghana

A farmer clears riverside trees to start growing crops in Buoy National Park. Credit: Bempah et al.

Buoy National Park is one of the few areas in Ghana where hippos are common. The combination of the resources of the Black Volta River and the abundance of grasses make this area a very suitable place for hippopotamus. But to solve the power crisis the country faced in 2007, the government of Ghana built a hydroelectric dam in the heart of his home.

Scientists at Nanjing University of Forestry, China, Godfred Bemper, Martin Covey Grant, Zhang Fu Lu, and Amaƫl Borzee, who learned about the impact of dam construction on aquatic life, explored how the project will affect the giant semi-aquatic species of hippopotamus. I wanted to understand how it affected me. The result was published in a magazine nature conservationAssessing the impacts of dam construction can inform policy and decision-making in future projects like this.

The researchers spent 24 days (2 days per month, 12 months) in Buui National Park to estimate hippopotamus populations, understand local migratory activities, and assess local land cover after dam construction. evaluated the changes. This information was then compared to historical data to understand ecological changes within the region.

To complement their fieldwork, the researchers spoke to locals familiar with the reserve before and after the dam was built. These included fishermen, canoe operators, and park rangers. During the interactive discussion, some commented that the number of hippos had decreased compared to before the construction of the dam. They attributed the decline to poaching and habitat destruction.

Human activity degrades hippo homes in Ghana's Buoy National Park

Hippopotamus skull confiscated in Buoy National Park. Credit: Bempah et al.

As a result, we found that the number of hippos decreased by about 70%. From 209 in 2003 he has dropped to 64 in 2021.

The study revealed significant changes in land cover after dam construction, and most importantly, reduced forest cover and destruction of riparian grasses, a preferred habitat for hippos. Rising water levels flooded the areas where the animals lived, forcing them to disperse to other suitable areas.

As they dispersed, the animals became more vulnerable to poaching, which combined with habitat loss ultimately led to a decline in hippopotamus numbers. You may have moved successfully.

Hippos are listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

In conclusion, the authors note that the number of common hippo populations in the park decreased after dam construction, related to habitat destruction and poaching. Once these threats are removed, hippos can survive in the medium to long term if effective management plans are implemented.

For more information:
Godfred Bempah et al., Direct and indirect effects of damming on the population and distribution of Hippopotamus amphibius in Buoy National Park, Ghana. nature conservation (2022). DOI: 10.3897/natureconservation.50.87411

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