The Atewa forest reserve is located in the Eastern Region of Ghana and spans 725 square kilometers (280 square miles). Atewa Forest is a Protected Forest Reserve, a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA), and meets the conditions for Alliance for Zero Extinction status. Ranging in elevation from 230 to 845 meters (750 to 2,700 feet), the reserve supports a variety of different habitats, including more than 650 species of plants and a rare upland forest ecosystem. The forest is also the source for the Birim, Densu and Ayensu rivers, which provide water for some 5 million people, including residents of the capital. The forest is home to many vulnerable and endangered species. The white-naped mangabey (Cercocebus lunulatus) is found there, and what may be the last viable population of the critically endangered Togo slippery frog (Conraua derooi). In July 2021, a newly discovered critically endangered frog species found nowhere else in the world was discovered in the Atewa Range Forest Reserve. With the common name Atewa Slippery frog, the new species has been named ‘Conraua sagyimase’ after the community of Sagyimase at the foot of the Atewa Forest that has supported work on the frog.
Atewa Slippery frog
Among 155 bird species recorded in the reserve are the brown-cheeked hornbill (Bycanistes cylindricus) and the Nimba flycatcher (Melaenornis annamarulae).
Chocolate-backed Kingfisher: one of 155 bird species found in the Atewa Forest Reserver. Image by Nik Borrow via Flickr (CC BY-NC-2.0)
The reserve also hosts 17 species of rare butterflies, half of which are found nowhere else in Ghana, including the African giant swallowtail (Papilio antimachus), with a wingspan of up to 23 centimeters (9 inches). New species continue to be found here, such as the endemic Atewa dotted border (Mylothris atewa), a butterfly recorded nowhere else, and a new species of hooded spider, Ricinoides atewa.
Green Orange Forester (Euphaedra zampa) (female) © Szabolcs Sáfián
In October 2021, the Shelley’s Eagle-Owl, a giant owl and one of the most elusive and mysterious of all birds, was rediscovered in the Atewa Forest, after going unnoticed in Ghana by scientists for almost 150 years. The discovery was made by two British scientists working in Ghana.
The Shelley’s Eagle-Owl
In November 2020, the International Union on the Conversation of Nature (IUCN) Resolution 087 was passed, asking for global action to make Atewa Forest a National Park to secure this invaluable collection of biodiversity as well as its crucial water provisioning services for over five million Ghanaians.