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New RAP Scientists in West Africa

November 2004

Several key biodiversity areas in West Africa now have new capable local scientists, thanks to a recently concluded project carried out by Conservation International’s West Africa and Rapid Assessment programs along with local partners.

As part of the project “Increasing Our Knowledge of Biodiversity in Priority Areas of the Upper Guinean Forest Through Biological Assessments,” some seven new scientists are fully trained and available to conduct Rapid Assessment Program (RAP) surveys throughout the upper region of the Guinean Forests of West Africa biodiversity hotspot.

Abdulai Barrie and Soumaoro Kante (large mammals), Elhadj Ousmane Tounkara (primates), Mohamed Alassane Bangoura and Alex Agyei (reptiles/amphibians), Yeo Kolo (invertebrates), and Erasmus Owusu (birds) all benefited from participating in RAPs and their experiences have made them valuable members to the biodiversity surveys.

“The great part about this project is that we are providing critical links between local scientists and international experts, which will be maintained far beyond the life of this project,” RAP Team Leader Jennifer McCullough said.

“We’ve established a cadre of experts, both local and international, who work well together and are able to perform at the highest conservation standards,” she said. “The teams assembled through this project have all expressed their interest in additional projects similar in nature that we are currently pursuing.”

Also, as a result of a training course and survey in Côte d'Ivoire that took place at the beginning of the project, the Pic de Fon, Guinea RAP was made possible. It also led to another RAP in southeast Guinea as well as a Rio Tinto/USAID/Conservation International alliance.

This, in turn, is leading to additional possibilities for advancing conservation in Guinea and providing opportunities for scientists trained during these RAPs to find further work in the field of conservation.

The RAP in Ghana (see related story: RAP Team Discovers New Species in Ghana) has created a relationship between several Ghanaian participants and the University of Vermont. The University has now provided research materials, equipment and books to Ghanaian institutions and plans to conduct further work in the country.

Several participants from these RAPs are now continuing on in their education – some are working toward a master’s degree and others toward a Ph.D.

The Guinean Forests of West Africa Hotspot’s forests have the highest mammal diversity of any hotspot and are among the highest priorities for primate conservation.

The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund supported this project as part of its strategic focus on the upper region of the hotspot, which extends from Guinea into eastern Sierra Leone and eastward through Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana into western Togo.

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© Conservation International, photo by Peter Hoke
RAP participants Mohamed Alassane Bangoura, Elhadj Ousmane Tounkara and Soumaoro Kante watch as Abdulai Barrie prepares a cast of a cat pawprint in western Côte d'Ivoire.

© Conservation International, photo by Piotr Naskrecki
Elhadj Ousmane Tounkara, a local scientist, participated in the RAP surveys in Côte d'Ivoire and Guinea.

You can learn more about the results of this project in the final project completion report.

Visit the news and feature archive for this hotspot.

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