Just about a week ago, the Mole Game Reserve, located in the West Gonja District of the Northern Region, witnessed a sad spectacle. Two elephants that allegedly strayed to graze on farmlands belonging to indigenes of the town were callously killed.
Not only that, the reports related how the youth also turned their weapons on a team of law enforcement officers deployed to herd the animals back to the park, assaulting them and seizing their AK47 rifles.
To compound the sacrilege, the villagers then hacked and carted the meat home obviously to celebrate their good fortune. As far as they are concerned, this is an opportunity to enjoy some elephant meat which we believe must be a delicacy seeing that one does not come across such meat regularly.
For the villagers, they were just exacting their revenge on the two animals for destroying their farms, obviously, not aware of how much economic damage their action has caused both their local economy in particular and the nation at large. For the Ghana Tourism Authority (GTA), the incident is a ‘loss of tourism revenue to the State.’ Manager for Product Development and Investments at GTA, Ben Anane-Nsiah, described that singular act as having denied the country at least US$1.6 million according to ‘iworry’, published by the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s (DSWT).
That is how much the the animals would have contributed to the economy had they lived to their fullest lifespan of 70 years.
Definitely, the Mole villagers are not aware of how much these animals have contributed to the economies of Kenya and Tanzania as tourists fly in from the four corners of the earth to their game reserves and national parks to have a look at these animals in their natural habitat.
In that part of the world, life is brutal and nasty. Eking a living in those dry arid lands is a survival of the fittest, the ever-encroaching Sahara Desert is a daily reminder that global warming is real. To plant foodstuffs only to see them destroyed is an act that they cannot fathom.
Living in that parched land has its own challenges manifesting in the south as the kayayei phenomenon when citizens from that part of the country embark on their seasonal migration to the south for menial jobs till the farming season comes when they return to farm.
What is however most worrying are reports of a Chinese-led syndicate which is buying the elephant tusks and antelopes obviously for export, albeit illegally.
The involvement of foreigners in the illegality means government and other stakeholders must get up to take control of the situation before it becomes another galamsey type menace to be fought. A massive education and sensitization exercise must be embarked upon for the communities surrounding the Mole Game Reserve in particular and other game reserves in general to see the economic importance of the reserves and their contribution to our national life.