) in Ghana was drawn up at an international workshop in May.
This species of bird, which is found in fragmented populations in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast and Ghana, is classified as Vulnerable under the IUCN Red List for Threatened Species. Forest clearance and conversion, collections of birds for export, and human disturbance at nest sites are all contributing to the species' endangered status, and hunting is also a factor in some areas.
For the past four years Earthwatch has worked in partnership with the Nature Conservation Research Centre (NCRC) and local communities near the Bonsambepo Forest, a major rockfowl habitat in the Asumura area of the Brong-Ahafo region in mid-western Ghana, a project supported by Newmont Ghana Gold Ltd
. The project is gathering data on the ecology of the bird for its conservation.
Earthwatch Research Manager Dr James Burton said: "The project to date has provided vital research information to help conservation efforts of the rockfowl. Now we need a considerable increase in support for this region to secure the forests within the wider landscape to ensure a future for the rockfowl and benefits for the people."
Patrick Adjewodah, a wildlife ecologist with more than eight years' experience with Earthwatch research projects and many conservation efforts, and now leading the Earthwatch rockfowl research, said: "Because over 80 per cent of known nesting colonies of the species in Ghana occur within timber production reserves, the Forestry Commission of Ghana is required to provide needed leadership in formulating policies and programmes to secure the long term future of the species."
Dr James Burton was among the group of conservation experts who attended the three-day workshop on rockfowl conservation in Kumasi, the region's main city.
The experts from Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Cameroon examined ways in which rockfowl conservation in Ghana can be developed on a broader scale over the next four years, and aimed to achieve an understanding of the status of rockfowl populations and conservation across West Africa. They also investigated options for sustainable funding opportunities for a landscape-scale project to include forest areas inhabited by rockfowl which could be replicated across West Africa; this would use payments for ecosystem services, for example using a carbon finance module to develop a REDD+1
The group of experts agreed that future work should involve identifying the potential drivers of deforestation, and initiating a dialogue with the Forestry Commission, village leaders and local government on the potential of the area for a carbon project.
They also want to establish the population status of the white-necked rockfowl in Ghana, both within the project area and beyond, and determine the possible interactions of the species with other species, and the implications for long-term conservation. A further goal is to identify opportunities for ecotourism and establish a local tourism management team.
The workshop in May was a collaborative effort by the Rock Fowl Conservation Initiative, Earthwatch Institute, Newmont, the Forestry Commission, Wienco, and the Nature Conservation Research Centre, with support from the British American Tobacco Biodiversity Partnership.
The UN REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) programme is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. REDD+ goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
Related: Establishing ecotourism in the Upper Guinean Forest