Research has discovered a new hyrax species in the Volta Region of Ghana which differs from the known Western tree hyrax (Dendrohyrax dorsalis), Prof. Edward Debrah Wiafe Dean School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, University of Environment and Sustainable Development, Somanya, has indicated.
He stated that to date faunal studies in the West African sub-region is insufficient and some species are still not discovered and formally undescribed to science and this makes management and conservation of such species difficult.
He said tree hyraxes are one of the three genera of Procaviidae, with little information about their taxonomy, natural history and habitat requirements. These animals make a lot of noise at night but are not easily seen.
Attributing it to factors such as nocturnal behaviour and lack of the reflective tapetum lucidum which enable the taxa to be easily spotted in the night by their eyeshine.
Hr said the known hyraxes give shrieking calls in the night and Ghana, Akans call it ‘Oweataa or Owea’ but there is a similar one that barks in the night but unknown to science.
This was contained in a statement issued and copied to Freedom Radio by the Prof. Edward Debrah Wiafe Dean School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, University of Environment and Sustainable Development.
‘’A new study published by the Journal of the Linnean Society co-authored by the University of Environment and Sustainable Development (UESD)’s environmentalist/conservationist, Prof. Edward D. Wiafe finds that a hyrax species in the Volta region differs from the known Western tree hyrax (Dendrohyrax dorsalis) ‘’ he said.
The newly described species has been named Dendrohyrax interfluvial with the common name Benin hyrax and it’s found in forest pockets between Volta and Niger rivers in regions of south-eastern Ghana, Southern Togo, Benin and south-western Nigeria.
Stating that in Ghana, it can only be found in the East of the Volta Lake around mountainous areas of Anyibe Nyabor, Tafi-Atomeh, Amedzofe, Afadzato.
Prof. Edward D. Wiafe said this animal feeds on nuts, fruits and seeds of many trees, shrubs and herbs thereby functioning as seed dispersers, propagating plants where they are needed on top of the mountains beyond the reach of humans.
Noting that researchers based their conclusion on the distinctive calls (barks) or the noise made in the night, anatomical and morphological analysis, plus genetic differences identified among tree hyraxes.
Given the background of the research, he said the scientific curiosity began in 2009 when co-authors Professor John Oates and Professor Simon Bearder were searching for nocturnal primates in Nigeria and noted that hyrax calls were different from the west and east side of the Niger River.
And around the same time co-authors, Dr Dowsett-Lemaire and Robert Dowsett also reported similar observations in Ghana and emphasized that the two calls even exist in Kalakpa resource reserve, Ghana during their bird survey.
He said the analysis of 34 calls recorded between Volta and Niger rivers were ‘rattle barks’ other than 62 ‘shrieking calls’ recorded from west of Volta and east of Niger.
He explained the study further, examined museum skins, carcasses of hyraxes killed by hunters and camera trap imagery and revealed differences in fur colour between Dendrohyrax interfluvial and other populations. Furthermore, genetic analysis of 21 samples of hyraxes’ tissues revealed that tissues from the areas between the two rivers were genetically distinct from other lineages.
Prof. Wiafe said the study concluded that the region between the two rivers, Volta and Niger, might contain many animal species that require scientific attention, however, the region is under severe threat due to human population growth plus its associated activities and developments.
While, the forest in the region has been suffered from such activities as logging, firewood and charcoal production, farming, hunting and overgrazing, with the fear being that a species may be lost or go extinct before it may be discovered.
In Ghana, the species of this animal occur only in a limited part of the country, the former Volta region, therefore there is an urgent need to invest further in the conservation of environmental resources in the region to protect the habitat of these animals and other yet to be described.