Somewhere nestled in the Volta Region of Ghana, you will find the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary and Cultural Village, where the exceptional bond between villagers and Mona Monkeys exists.
Photo Credit: Tafi Cultural Institute
To protect their wide-eyed, mischievous, furry neighbors called the Mona Monkeys, the inhabitants of Tafi Atome took bold steps to establish the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary in1993. The sanctuary was built under the guidance of a Peace Corps Volunteer, as a community-based ecotourism project. Since then, these two different groups of Primates have lived side by side in relative peace.
The sanctuary is surrounded by lush vegetation, valleys, and a glimpse of Mount Gemi on the distant horizon. It is home to other wildlife like the Patas Monkey, several birds, and butterfly species.
Photo Credit: The Hauns in Africa
Mona monkeys, scientifically known as Cercopithecus mona, are fascinating creatures found across Southwest Africa. The following countries are home to them—Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Senegal, Congo, Angola, Kasai, Gambia, Kwango, and West Uganda.
They are quite vocal (that is putting it mildly), and have nimble, acrobatic movements, which they require to get into a whole lot of pleasant mischief. They gracefully move through the treetops by leaping from branch to branch, landing with poise on all four limbs (my rusty joints cannot relate). They’re diurnal, active mostly in the early morning and late afternoons, filling the air all day with their moans and sneeze-like alarm calls. Males use distinct boom and hack calls to assert their territory and rank within the group.
The Relationship Between The Villagers and The Mona Monkeys
Photo Credit: Ghana Web
In Tafi Atome, over 1000 humans and 300 True Mona and Patas monkeys have forged a unique relationship held by the threads of trust and respect. This is highly remarkable, considering how high-spirited and lively the monkeys are. Legend has it that centuries ago, the villagers made a pact with the Mona monkeys, promising to provide them with a haven in exchange for preserving the peace and prosperity of the community. This spiritual and mystical bond has transcended generations, remaining unbroken.
As you stroll through the sanctuary’s lush surroundings, you’ll witness the extraordinary sight of monkeys swinging freely from branch to branch, their playful antics captivating visitors. The villagers are their guardians and caretakers, understanding the delicate needs and behaviors of their primate neighbors. It’s a heartwarming display of symbiosis, where both humans and monkeys benefit from the land, and depend on each other for survival.
Mona monkeys are believed to be endangered in most regions, because they fall prey to predators like leopards, golden cats, raptors, and pythons. They are also hunted by people for food in some parts of Southwest Africa.
The Benefits of the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary
The Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary is more than just a sanctuary for endangered species. It’s a blueprint of the incredible benefits of conserving our wildlife. We are not alone on the planet, and need to maintain a balance in the ecosystem for us all to survive.
Firstly, the sanctuary acts as an educational hub, providing invaluable knowledge about the significance of conservation and the delicate balance of ecosystems. “Save our planet” might sound like a broken record on the news, but it is far from it. The more people learn about the importance of protecting wildlife, the less endangered species we will have in the world.
Visitors to the sanctuary have the opportunity to learn about the ecological importance of the Mona monkeys and the challenges they face in the wild. This helps to foster a deeper appreciation for the need to protect these remarkable creatures.
Additionally, the sanctuary serves as an ecotourism destination, attracting tourists from far and wide. It injects the much-needed revenue into the local economy, creating job opportunities and supporting sustainable development. The presence of tourists fosters a sense of pride and camaraderie within the community, encouraging the villagers to actively participate in safeguarding their natural heritage. They have a sense of responsibility to preserve their forest and co-exist with their mischievous neighbors,
In the sanctuary, tourists can feed the monkeys bananas, and if they are brave enough, they can get closer and take pictures with them. There are tour guides who will educate you about the place and offer valuable insights on primate conservation. There are also stores where you can buy traditionally designed kente stoles, beautifully carved artifacts, beaded necklaces, and t-shirts. You will leave the sanctuary blessed with an appreciation for wildlife conservation.
Governments in Africa Should Create More Sanctuaries for Endangered Species
The Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary serves as a compelling testament to the importance of establishing more wildlife sanctuaries across Africa. African governments should invest in wildlife conservation to protect endangered species, preserve biodiversity, and ensure the sustainable coexistence of humans and wildlife.
This act will also serve to preserve Africa’s rich natural heritage, and also double as centers for research, education, and community development.
If you yearn for a remarkable adventure that blends nature, and culture, then the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary is the destination to visit.