The Research Experience in Ghana is a biannual program run by Professors Phil Allman and Alison Elgart consisting of two courses and a four-week long trip to Ghana. Students will learn field techniques such as MARK recapture and DISTANCE sampling while observing African wildlife first hand. The preparatory course introduces participants to Ghana culture, history, ecology and wildlife as well as provides practice for the field techniques.
During the December travel, Professor Elgart will lead the students in a study of the monkeys of Boabeng-Fiema Monkey Sanctuary located in central Ghana. The sanctuary is a 192 ha dry semi-deciduous forest where about 200 ursine colobus monkeys inhabit the forest between the towns Boabeng and Fiema, along with Campbell’s mona monkey (Cercopithecus campbelli lowei) (Saj et al., 2006; Sicotte and Macintosh, 2004; Wong et al., 2006). The primates are protected by a traditional taboo held among the local villagers that imposes a “hunting ban”. Oral tradition tells us that over 100 years ago, a local chief instructed villagers of Boabeng and Fiema to “care for the monkeys”, and today a thriving ecotourism venture exists on site (Saj et al., 2006; Appiah-Opoku, 2007). The monkeys are so revered that whenever a monkey dies, it is buried in a special cemetery. This protection is far from complete however, as BFMS was inhabited by more species of monkeys in the past (Saj et al., 2006; personal communication, P. Sicotte, 2009). As with many colobine species, ursine colobus are endangered. The last IUCN survey concluded that the white-thighed black and white colobus “conservation needs are for a thorough survey and more rigorous protection of remaining populations” (Appendix 2: IUCN, 1996). During the upcoming 2012 program, students will conduct a census of the Campbell’s mona monkeys and test physical properties of the ursine colobus diet.