University of Aberdeen Volta Hippo project

Daniel Bennett

This University of Aberdeen Expedition to the Black Volta River system is intended to help foster co-operation and understanding between European and African students through studies of the wildlife of the West African Savannas. The main aims of the Expedition are to carry out work to investigate the population status and biology of two endangered animals in the grasslands of Ghana and Burkina Faso, the hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius) and the Nile monitor lizard (Varanus niloticus) as well as fish, small vertebrate, butterfly and vegetation surveys. The work will be carried out with the approval and under the supervision of the Wildlife Departments of Ghana and Burkina Faso and will include Wildlife officers from both departments together with 12 students from Cape Coast University and the Centre Universitaire Polytechnique de Bobo-Dioulasso. Between May and August 1997 a team of 41 people carried out the survey work - little previous work had been done here and at the time it was under threat from a hydro-electric project that would destroy all riverine habitats in the protected area. The work indicated that the Bui National Park contained diverse communities of many animal groups characteristic of both grassland and forests. The riverine surveys added 25 new species to the area and large populations of hippos were recorded. The report therefore indicated that the construction of the dam would be disastrous for a wide range of riverine flora and fauna, some of which unique to the area and recommended further survey work. Unfortunately the Hydro Electric Plan was given the green light by the Ghanaian government in November 1997 (D. Bennett in litt. 1998) and although it's progress is not known, it is likely that the dam is now in place.