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19.09.2003 Travel & Tourism

Investment in eco-tourism would reduce rural urban drift - Aliu

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Accra, Sept. 19, GNA - Vice President Aliu Mahama on Friday commended the Calgary Zoo of Canada for its assistance in developing the Wechiau Hippo Sanctuary in the Upper West Region.

He said investments in eco tourism would create jobs in rural areas and stem the migration of the youth to urban areas.

The Vice President was speaking to a delegation from the Calgary Zoo, led by its Chief Executive, Mr Alex Graham, who called on him at the Castle, Osu.

The Zoo, which provided funding for baseline information to set up the Sanctuary, in 1999, has so far invested 30,000 dollars in the tourist site.

Vice President Mahama said the Government has focused on developing eco tourism in various parts of the country as an avenue to facilitate rural development and to protect the environment.

"The local people can earn their living as hosts and by selling artefacts to tourists.

"I visited the Wechiau Sanctuary about two years ago and I was impressed with different kinds of wildlife that I saw there." The Vice President said a fire belt would be provided to protect it from bushfires.

The Sanctuary, a community-based eco tourism project, is located at the extreme North Western corner of the Upper West Region. It consists of 40-kilometre stretch of the Black Volta and it is home to 45 hippos, 250 different species of birds, chameleons, hedgehogs and different types of lizards and snakes.

Mr Boniface Abubakari Saddique, Deputy Minister of Tourism, said the Kakum Park and Paga Crocodile Pond were good models of eco tourism sites that could be replicated to reduce poverty in rural communities. Mr Graham said Calgary Zoo was securing 10,000 US dollars from the Canadian Government to upgrade facilities at the Sanctuary and build the capacity of its managers.

It would also encourage tourists from Canada and other parts of North America to visit the Sanctuary.

Mr Graham said Ghana has very unique creatures with bright prospects for tourism attraction, which must be explored.

He said the Calgary Zoo, which has undertaken wild life research for over 20 years, was also in developing a project that would host animals from all over Africa.

Already some monkeys and hippos from Ghana are in the zoo. Naa Danyagi, Walaman I, Tokali Naa, who is in-charge of the Sanctuary, said it had received more than 16 research teams, adding that tourists receipts was also impressive.

The Sanctuary, he said has locally built lodging structures and other indigenous treats for its visitors. 19 Sept. 83

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