Ever since they were introduced to alcohol by some notorious poachers last year, the monkeys in the forest reserve at Monkey Hill in Takoradi have not looked back and there seems to be no way of stopping them from their boozing spree.
Although the number of poachers has dwindled and the residents living at the fringes of the reserve have stopped encroaching, the monkeys are still seen crossing streets drunk.A few recalcitrant poachers induce the monkeys who stray out of the reserve to feed on bananas laced with the local gin (akpeteshie).
Thus it is a common sight to see the monkeys breaking bounds from the reserve to feed on bananas laced with gin only to be seen wobbling back to the reserve. The Mirror reported in its March 22, 2003 edition the adoption of a new method by some poachers to get the monkeys at Monkey Hill, an exclusive reserve for monkeys in Takoradi, drunk by feeding them on bananas laced with akpeteshie, making it easy to trap them.
Their action was strongly fuelled by the fact that monkey meat is a delicacy in some areas of the Western Region, while the demand for them by tourists is also high. In an interview with Mr Jacob Oti-Awere, Western Regional Manager of the Ghana Tourist Board (GTB), all efforts are being made to get the monkeys to sober up.
He said to protect the monkeys and win back the addicted ones, a package has started to create awareness on the need to protect the monkeys and conserve the only forest reserve in Sekondi-Takoradi.
Mr Oti-Awere said Friends of the Nation, a Ghanaian NGO, with support from two environment-oriented NGOs from Europe, has embarked on a programme to build structures for the development of the Monkey Hill Forest Reserve. Friends of the Nation would also conduct a survey of the fora and fauna species in the reserve and finalise plans to plant tree species and crops which are edible for monkeys.
According to Mr Oti-Awere, the project is estimated to cost 60,000 Euros.He regretted that the indiscriminate drugging and killing of the monkeys has reduced the once highly populated monkey family to only 70.
He said apart from Zambia and Kenya which have such a reserve in a city centre, Ghana is the only other country with such a facility