Indigenous Beliefs and Biodiversity Conservation: The Effectiveness of Sacred Groves, Taboos and Totems in Ghana for Habitat and Species Conservation
Subject Areas: Religious Studies
The paper evaluates the effectiveness of sacred forests, taboos, and totems associated with various animal species in Ghana for biodiversity conservation. The Nkodurom and Pinkwae Sacred Groves have been preserved by local communities through beliefs enforced by a range of restrictions and taboos. In both cases, the groves are the only relatively intact forest in severely degraded landscapes and farmlands. The mollusc Tympanotonus fuscatus, three species of turtles (Green, Olive Ridley, Leatherback), and the Black heron are exploited by many coastal communities in Ghana, but in all cases, the species are protected by some communities through traditional beliefs and taboos. An analysis of the distribution and abundance of these species along the Ghana coast showed much higher numbers in the areas where the species are protected by traditional belief systems. The densities of Tympanotonus fuscatus ranged from 172.3 to 326.2 m-2 at the site where they were protected, compared to 46.7 m-2 where they were exploited, while over 80% of all turtle nest records and 54% of Black Herons sightings occurred at the sites where the species are traditionally protected. The paper discusses the value of traditional strategies as a tool for species and habitat conservation and calls for a global assessment of indigenous conservation systems, and promotion of those systems that have potential to augment biodiversity conservation efforts in Africa.
Author: Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu