The Black Volta Project

extract from: BLACK VOLTA REPORT 1997.


The Black Volta Project
University of Aberdeen
Expedition to the Black Volta 1997
Ghana Wildlife Department
Cape Coast University
Final Report

Edited by aniel Bennett & Brian Basuglo
University Of Aberdeen
Black Volta Expedition 1997
Final Report

With contributions from:
  • Francis Adie
  • Francis Kwaku Agbo
  • Stanley Aglah
  • Mildred Amofa
  • Harwell Asorwoe
  • Brian Basuglo
  • Daniel Bennett
  • Emmanuel Danquah
  • Sammy Appiagyei Danquah
  • Murray Doyle
  • Malcolm Goth
  • Nicky Green
  • Marjo Helle
  • Moses Komoah
  • Solomon Yaw Manu
  • James Agyei Ohemena
  • Greg O’Neill
  • Vinciane Sacre

Edited by:
Department of Zoology, University of Aberdeen, AB24 2TZ, Scotland.
Ghana Wildlife Department Box M.239, Ministries, Accra, Ghana

The rights of Francis Adie, Francis Agbo, Stanley Aglah, Mildred Amofa, Harwell Asorwoe, Brian Basuglo, Daniel Bennett, Emmanuel Danquah, Sammy Danquah, Murray Doyle, Malcolm Goth, Nicky Green, Marjo Helle, Moses Komoah, Solomon Yaw Manu, Greg O’Neill, James Ohemena and Vinciane Sacre to be identified as the authors of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1998.

A CIP record for this publication is available from the British Library.

© "University of Aberdeen Black Volta Expedition 1997" 1998

Published on the Internet with the kind permission of Viper Press. All rights reserved.
ISBN 0 9526632 3
Published by:
PO BOX 10087
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This work should be cited as:
D. Bennett and B. Basuglo. 1998. Final Report of the Aberdeen University
Black Volta Expedition 1997. Viper Press, Aberdeen, Scotland

  • British Petroleum
  • Fauna and Flora International
  • BirdLife International
  • Barclays Bank
  • Royal Geographical Society
  • The Explorers Club, Education & Youth Activities Fund
  • The Albert Reckitt Charitable Trust
  • The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland
  • The Anne Helen Layland Fund, Manchester University
  • Aberdeen University Expedition Society
  • Armitages Bros plc
  • Mrs B Green
  • The Duke of Edinburgh Trust
  • The Blakemore Foundation
  • The Ammo Trust
  • Mrs A Garrard
  • Mr D Candy
  • Mr J Fordham
  • Mr D Garrard
  • The John Ray Trust
  • Mr K Bell, Todds Of Lincoln
  • Mrs J Evans, Bed & Bath (UK) Ltd
  • Cascade Designs
  • Metcalf (Leenside) Ltd
  • Bayer PLC
  • Design Mats
  • Focus Development Laboratories/Gleneagles Healthcare
  • Plastok Ltd
  • Nana Antiwi Danquar
  • Zoology Department, Aberdeen University
  • Matt Brock

Between May and August 1997 a team of 41 people carried out construction work and surveys of animals in Bui National Park, Ghana. The Park has been protected since 1971 but no previous work on the diversity of the area had been carried out. The area is under threat from a hydroelectric project that will destroy all riverine habitats within the protected area.

The park contains the largest of only two Hippopotamus amphibius populations left in Ghana. Using number of hippos seen per section of the river suggests a mean density of 2.11 (+/-0.17) hippos per km of river. Extrapolating this for the whole park suggests a total population of 140-164 animals. Actual figure is probably higher and is estimated at 250-350 animals. The hippo is unable to survive in areas outside the National Park. The Nile monitor lizard Varanus niloticus is common within the park. Juvenile monitor lizards are restricted to riverbank habitats whilst older animals are found throughout the area. There were no apparent differences between lizards seen on either riverbank, although adults were more common on the Western bank. Diet of juveniles consists largely of orthopterans, spiders and beetles. Adults eat large quantities of snails. A survey of dragonflies conducted at several sites in Ghana recorded 71 species. With 25 new species records, the known dragonfly fauna for the country is increased by 27% to 118 species. These new species records included 12 new genera for Ghana. This brings the number of Odonata genera from 44 to 56, an increase of over 27%. Forty six species of fish from 17 families were recorded from the Black Volta River. All are of economic importance. Four fishermen caught an average of 10.75 fish each day with a mean biomass of 3216g per day. A Momyrid fish, probably Gnathonemus petersi is reported to have disappeared from the river in recent years. A survey of the rodents at Bui found 204 specimens of 23 species at six sites. There were differences in species composition between areas of grassland and riverine forest. The lack of a reliable key to rodents of West Africa imposes severe limitations on field work. 133 fruit bats of nine species and 14 insect bats of five species were caught at Bui and Shai Hills Reserve. Bui had higher diversity of fruitbats but both areas contain important populations that require further study. Highest diversity of bats overall was along the Black Volta River. Reptiles found at Bui included Nile crocodiles, rock pythons and cat snakes. The park may also contain populations of slender snouted and dwarf crocodile. 47 species of butterflies were recorded from Bui, including 13 forest species and 43 species of birds. Basic knowledge about the vegetation was needed for our faunal survey of the Park. Systematic sampling of the trees was carried out on the various study plots. The grass cover, considered as a vital component of the rodent habitat, was measured where Sherman traps had been placed. The results show that there is a high variability in the relative abundance of species and the absolute number of tree species per plot (shown by the species diversity index) and very much so in the species composition of the various study plots. Variations in the grass cover are not so striking however.

The results indicate that Bui National Park contains diverse communities of many animal groups characteristic of both grasslands and forests. Because all of the forested areas are within the floodplain of the river, the hydroelectric project that aims to dam the river at Bui will completely destroy all the riverine forest habitat within the park. Prior to dam construction the area should be intensively surveyed by independent workers and steps taken to protect as many of the rare plants and animals as possible. In the meantime, Bui has very exciting potential to attract tourists because of the high probability of being able to view hippopotamus on the river. To this end tree houses were built along the river and publicity materials advertising the park have been prepared.

1. List of Members
2. Introduction, Climate, Details of Study Areas, Maps
3. Estimating the Hippopotamus Population in Bui National Park
4. Notes on the Nile Monitor Lizard, Varanus niloticus
5. Dragonfly Biodiversity in Ghana
6. Notes on Fishes of the Black Volta
7. Notes on the Rodents of Bui National Park
8. Bats at Bui National Park and Shai Hills
9. Notes on Reptiles found at Bui National Park
10. Reptiles at Shai Hills Reserve
11. Butterflies from Bui National Park
12. Birds known from Bui National Park
13. Notes on Other Animals Observed at Bui National Park
14. Twi and Banda Names for Animals
15. Park Development
16: Vegetation Survey
17. Unsuccesful Projects 1
18. Logistics
18.1 Personnel
18.2 Maps
18.3 Transport
18.4 Water and Food
18.5 Science
18.6 Health and Safety
19. Time Account
20: Financial Account
21: Conclusions and Recommendations for Further Work Ten High Priority Projects in Bui National Park
22. Thanks:
23. Summary of the Black Volta Expedition by Malcolm Goth

1. List of Members
Daniel Abdulai (Ghana Wildlife Department)
Samuel Kwasi Addae (Ghana Wildlife Department)
Francis Adie (cameraman)
Francis Kwaku Agbo (Cape Coast University)
Stanley Aglah (Cape Coast University)
Fidelis Agya (Ghana Wildlife Department)
Baturi Ali (animal tracking)
Joyce Amanenyor (cook)
Mildred Amofa (Cape Coast University)
Harwell Asorwoe (Cape Coast University)
Brian Basuglo (Ghana Wildlife Department)
Wahabo Belu (animal tracking)
Daniel Bennett (Aberdeen University)
Mahama Blubasi (Ghana Wildlife Department)
Frank Nana Bonsu (Ghana Wildlife Department)
Emmanuel Danquah(Cape Coast University)
Sammy Appiagyei Danquah (Cape Coast University)
Kealan Doyle (Aberdeen University)
Murray Doyle (Strathclyde University)
Peter Dzobo (fisherman)
Besan Dzobo (fisherman)
Fovi Dzobo (fisherman)
Maxwell Gbadago (fisherman)
Cynthia Gboger (cook)
Malcolm Goth (Leeds University)
Nicky Green (Manchester University)
Marjo Helle (Aberdeen University)
Moses Komoah (Ghana Wildlife Department)
Ken Maher (Aberdeen University)
Samson Fogor Mangu (camp maintenance)
Solomon Yaw Manu (UST, Kumasi)
Greg O’Neill (University of Puget Sound)
Roger Nolan (Aberdeen University)
Frank Nsiah (Ghana Wildlife Department)
Eric Nyamaa (Ghana Wildlife Department)
James Agyei Ohemena (Ghana Wildlife Department)
Vinciane Sacre (Aberdeen University)
Samuel (animal tracker)
Simone (animal tracker)
Rebecca Stocker (Point Defiance Zoo)
James Tanleik (Ghana Wildlife Department)


 The Aberdeen University Black Volta 1997 Expedition was an extraordinary project. A large team of very enthusiastic students descended on Bui National Park in northwestern Ghana to carry out surveys of various animals. Previously the park had attracted no interest whatsoever from the scientific community in all 26 years of its existence, but a great deal of attention as the proposed site of a hydroelectric dam that would flood almost the entire protected area. With little money and equipment, but an enormous amount of help from Ghana Wildlife Department staff and local villagers they built treehouses and a sophisticated campsite, repaired roads, canoes and trucks, counted hippopotamus and monitor lizards, studied the diversity of bat, rodent, butterfly, dragonfly and fish populations, and made inventories of the reptiles, birds and other animals found in the park. Not only did they get poachers and wildlife staff to work together, they caused them to dance and sing. All this against a background of dire poverty and pestilent blackflies.

 It seems unnecessary to dwell on the accomplishments of the team, save to say that everything was due to the great confidence placed in the team by sponsors who were not deterred by the ambitious aims of the project. Rather, attention needs to be drawn to the limitations of the work outlined in this report. Bui National Park covers 1,821km2 of which a small fraction was explored by expedition members. The entire eastern riverbank and all the park from north of 8o22N remains totally unsurveyed. This project initially set out to conduct surveys throughout the course of the Black Volta and succeeded in surveying just 12km of river. Wet season flooding of the riverine forest prevented access to a great deal of the riverbank by foot and the terrain is unsuitable for vehicles. We were aware that the wet season was not the ideal time to carry out this study, but decided that a study at any time of year by a large and enthusiastic team of volunteers would probably collect more data than any other survey likely to be carried out prior to destruction of the park by the dam project. Our study has demonstrated that Bui National Park contains very important riverine forest and grassland habitats harbouring a diverse faunal community that contains many species that are threatened or endangered in West Africa. The study has also highlighted the poor state of taxonomic knowledge of West African fauna, especially in the English language. The work done by the team warrants further research in this area by independent researchers.

We extend our thanks to all our friends on the Black Volta and wish them health and prosperity.

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The Black Volta Project was sponsored by:

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