Animals have been and are still intriguing to us as they appear in our food, folk tales, and even National emblems. In recent times, we have increasingly been educated on the importance of keeping our animal species from getting extinct because we depend on them for our very survival. Zoos have played an important role in connecting the general population with wildlife that would have otherwise been close to impossible as well as helping to increase the knowledge of animals and how they behave. In this article, GreenViews brings to you “Interaction with Wildlife – Accra Zoological Gardens”.

The Accra Zoo has entertained and educated thousands of Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians on some of the tropical animals here in Ghana and it continues to have thousands of patrons most of which are school kids from all levels. The Accra Zoo is located somewhere in the heart of the Achimota forest. The Achimota forest itself is quite adjacent to the Achimota School and borders Dzorwulu to the West, Abofu to the East, and Abelemkpe to the South. To access the Achimota Zoo, you have to get to the main entrance which is directly opposite the Achimota Branch of the Forestry Commission. There are many taxi drivers and women selling confectionery and drinks stationed there waiting for people to patronize their services. Before moving into the forest, there is a small office of the Forestry commission where tickets are sold to members of the public who want to use any part of the forest for whatever activity is allowed in there.

The Accra Zoological Garden is about 5 minutes’ drive and 30 minutes’ walk from the main gate of the forest. The road leading into the forest is less than stellar – very bumpy and sandy but goes straight to the location of the zoo. There are no gates; it is a clearing amid the woody sea of trees and one may see some geese and ducks roaming freely, their quacks filling the air as well as many cages. Before we go into the details of what the zoo holds, let us look at the history of the zoo.

History of the Accra Zoo

The Accra Zoological Garden was established by Ghana’s first President – Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah in 1961 with the sole purpose of entertaining his guests and it existed just behind the current seat of government – The Flagstaff House. He established it as a private menagerie, just as some aristocrats do. However, Nkrumah’s rule did not last for long; barely six years after establishing the menagerie, his government was overthrown through a coup d’état and for fear of his life went on a self-imposed exile to Guinea. Not long after his overthrow, the menagerie was opened up to the general public and that birthed the Accra Zoo. This served the general public for many years until the government of Ghana decided to change the Seat of Government from the Osu Castle to the Flagstaff House. The zoo could no longer be held at that location and deliberation started as to how to safely relocate the zoo.

The New Flagstaff House which is the seat Government of Ghana

In 2006, the Accra zoo was decommissioned and the animals were translocated to the Kumasi Zoo to allow the construction and the redesign of the Flagstaff House which was to become the new seat of Government. So the Authorities in charge of the Zoo reasoned that it would be a good idea to establish the zoo in the Achimota Forest, away from the urban settlements and all their noise and activities as well as take the animals closer to the wild where they would be more comfortable. In 2005, the West African Primate Conservation Action (WAPCA) – (an Interest group of European Zoos) decided to collaborate with the management of the zoo to create an Endangered Primate Breeding Centre. This centre is provided for by the WAPCA and is supported by the German Embassy and their main aim is to house and provide safe shelter for endangered mammals.

Protection of endangered species at the Accra Zoo

The entire Zoo staff has been actively involved in the confiscation and rescue of orphaned monkeys, especially the endangered White-naped Mangabey and the critically endangered Roloway Monkey. Some of the monkeys and apes were confiscated from the pet trade market while others were brought in from European zoos under the recommendations of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP). Periodically, WAPCA exchanges animals with other European zoological collections to maintain genetic diversity and to ensure strong and healthy captive populations. 

Interestingly, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, a White-naped Mangabey was born and this got the entire zoo staff as well as WAPCA very happy because of the endangered status of those species. Currently, WAPCA has 3 adult males, 6 adult females, 2 sub-adult males, 5 juvenile White-naped Mangabey, and 1 adult male Roloway Monkey making a total of 17 animals.

Royal pythons at the Accra Zoological Garden

A wildlife appreciation experience

The Accra Zoo boasts of having over 150 individual species of animals on display. They look healthy, well-fed and comfortable. The guides are courteous, knowledgeable and very friendly, and patient, contributing to making the experience worthwhile. Some of the animals that exist in the Accra zoo are tortoises, rabbits, a duiker, an ostrich, an emu, a hyena, warthogs, reindeer, donkey, jackal, crocodiles, snakes, and many more. There is an aviary where birds of different species can be found; a crane, Senegal Parrots, African Grey Parrots. Macaws and many other birds can be found in the aviary. They are so colourful and have interesting reactions towards humans that would make visitors like to capture the moments.

One of the main highlights of a trip to the Accra Zoo is meeting a lion and a lioness in person, of course, the lions are caged with double and reinforced mesh and visitors are protected from these animals. The cage of the lions has been put somewhere quite a distance from the main zoo and so visiting it becomes like a surprise package. Another highlight is that many visitors are allowed to hold and interact with the docile and non-venomous royal python and also take pictures with it around their necks or arms. This is like the icing on the visit to the zoo because many people including children are encouraged to face their fears. 

Meeting a lion and a lioness in person in the Accra Zoo

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