Hippopotamus amphibius

Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary

Hippopotamuses are an iconic and important part of their ecosystem, helping to regulate both aquatic and terrestrial habitats. They are great ecosystem engineers, restoring balance for other wildlife both in water and on land. Although biodiversity monitoring indicates the hippo population is increasing, there’s still more work to be done.

Why is hippo conservation important?

Hippos rest in water by day and feed on land at night. Their daily movements and feeding habits help transfer nutrients from land to water and maintain open water for the benefit of aquatic species. On land, they regulate plant diversity, benefiting other herbivores.

Once widespread, hippos are now considered Vulnerable due to continued declines across their range. In West Africa, populations are at high risk due to habitat fragmentation and human-wildlife conflict. There are now less than 150 hippos left in Ghana.

Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary

The Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary (WCHS) was created to protect one of the last remaining hippo populations in Ghana. This initiative stands out as a model for community conservation success, with a 20+ year track record of benefiting people and wildlife.

Protecting hippos by improving local livelihoods

Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary takes a holistic approach to hippo conservation by linking protected area management, species conservation, and community development. The Wilder Institute has supported the hippo sanctuary since its inception in 1998. We partner with the Wechiau Sanctuary Management Board and the Centre for Biodiversity Conservation Research to protect and monitor hippos and their habitat while improving livelihoods for the 20 communities in the sanctuary.

Our work

We work with our partners to protect and monitor hippos and their habitat, support inclusive governance of natural resources in Wechiau, and increase livelihood security and human dignity for community residents that can enhance the resilience of the local social-ecological system. To support monitoring efforts as well as eco-tourism opportunities, we also supported the installment of a hippo viewing platform.

Community conservation

We supported the development of an organic shea cooperative and shea butter processing center which employs 413 women and 6 men to process shea butter and operate the machinery respectively. Today, close to 2000 local women are involved in the cooperative, making it the largest source of employment and income for the sanctuary. We are working to foster sustainability by ensuring eco-friendly income sources are diversified and everyone benefits.

Our conservation impact

Thanks to a collaborative effort to protect hippos and their habitat, hippo populations have stabilized and are increasing. Employment and income generating opportunities for more than 20% of the local population have been created and the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary was the recipient of the UN Equator Prize for balancing the socio-economic and ecological needs of the community resulting in benefits for people and wildlife. The objective of the Wechiau hippo conservation program is to maximize species recovery and reduce the risk of extinction.

Did you know?

Hippos are the third largest land mammal after elephants and white rhinos. Females can weigh up to 3000lbs!

Hippo dung is vital to the African river ecosystem. This organic matter is a source of nutrition for a variety of river fish and aquatic insects, and represents a crucial flow of energy.

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