Tafi Atome: Here Mona Monkeys Live in Harmony with Human

Posted on: June 10, 2020, by :


The journey started from Ho town in the Central Region of Ghana. Ho is pronounced twisting the lips into a big round ‘O’, then leaving it hanging while the ‘Ho’ sound is pushed out with air. Although a beautiful picturesque town worth exploring with its inviting hills, it was for another time. Tafi Atome, the Mona monkeys’ sa

nctuary, was cal

The journey was interesting. We meandered through hilly road from Central to Volta Region of Ghana. It not only offered spectacular views but also made one’s heart bit faster with the sharp turns and height.
A Bond with Monkeys
Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary has become a reference point for its success in ecotourism conservation. Since 1996, it has created a sanctuary for the beautiful and friendly Mona monkeys. At the sanctuary, they are preserved from being poached. This has helped to grow their numbers. Tourists visitors are attracted to the community with its attendant revenue from tourism.
However, as we later heard, the people Tafi Atome have age long bond with the Mona monkeys.
At the sanctuary, we were first briefed on rules of engagement at the monkeys’ sanctuary deep in the forest. Walking into the forests, initially there was nothing happening; suddenly we could see the monkeys piping from the safety of the trees and followed our movements curiously by jump from one tree branch to another. However, when the bananas came out, the monkeys came down. With sounds of excitement, they jumped, climbed and crawled round us just to have access to the bananas.
A friendly primate called Mona monkeys
Out tour guide explained: “All Mona Monkeys have the same pattern. But these ones carry extra features that make them unique Mona monkeys. This special feature is that when you go to watch them, you look at their back, you will see two white spots. In the whole of West Africa you can see true Mona monkeys here in Ghana, Cross River Nigeria and the Cameroun. In the ape family, they are the friendliest. They are so friendly to the extent that when you are feeding them, you will see them in your arms. There friendly nature is limited to you having food. When there is no food, no friendship. When you go to see them, they are your friends. You need not be afraid of them. All they are after is the food.”

A message of migration from the gods
The tour guide told us the story of the people’s affinity with Monkeys. He said: “Our forefathers migrated from the Central region. While our forefathers were there, they were traditionalists worshipping their gods through idols. They listened and obeyed the commands of their gods. They had soothsayers who understood the messages from the gods and interpreted them to the people.
It happened that one afternoon, the soothsayer was relaxing when all of a sudden, a message came to him from the gods telling him to tell the people to move from there to a place where they will find these monkeys. The gods said they should live forever with the monkeys. The gods also told them they have things in common with these monkeys.
Because the people always listened to the commands of the gods to avoid calamity, they packed and started to walk. They walked for 50 years before they finally got here.
Even be3fore they got here, there is a river down there, when they got to the river being rainy season, it was so flooded that the people could not swim across it. This was because among them were children, pregnant women and aged people. While they were pondering how to cross this river, they saw a huge log lying across the river. The walk on it and crossed the river. After all had crossed, from the back, they looked back at the river and realized that the log was turning into a very huge python and it disappeared into the water. They walked for another five kilometres and got here. When they got here, they told themselves that they had walked too much, that they were tired of walking and would remain here. This was because after examining the ground and the soil and found out that the kind of soil here was fertile enough to support the kind of crops they cultivated. There were also games as they realized that was a big forest here with so many animals that they would hunt for food. So, they decided to stay. They brought out their gods in form of sculpted works. Just after a while, they started seeing these monkeys and pythons. Many who were there when the revelation was made many years ago died on the way as a result of old age. Even the soothsayer who received the message was dead. When they got here, the gods had appointed a different person to be the soothsayer. Everybody was expecting the soothsayer to consult the oracle to tell them why the place was surrounded by these monkeys. He did. The gods told him that the monkeys they were seeing were the monkeys they promised their forefathers many years ago. The oracle explained that these monkeys spiritually directed their parts all the way to this place; that they were ahead of them without them knowing throughout the journey. Also it also told them that the monkeys were messengers from the gods, that the python was the same one that helped them to cross the river. The god s said the tortoise should be the symbol of the people of … The reason being that the tortoise is very slow in doing things but they do things well. Well, you are doing a project with us, a slow pace we do things might even make you contemplate leaving us, but when we are done with our work, it will be among the best. One example is this ecotourism project, it started with many communities. We took time, learn about it before executing.”

The Ewes move in various directions. People started occupying the present Ghana around AD 11, 12 and 13. They were coming from the ancient empires like the Songhai and Mali. There were two reasons for their migration from this forest area and all the way to the coast. It was because of the pressure of Islam. People were forced by the Arabs coming from the Mediterranean, to turn to Islam. Some of them, being traditionalist, didn’t agree to that.
The second reason was desertification. Many of them were farmers and when the forests were getting depleted, they decide to move southward.
The Ewes are seen in the southern parts of Ghana, Togo and Benin. But today, because of fishing, most of the fishermen in these three countries move along the coasts of West Africa. Some can even be seen in parts of Nigeria, Cote D’Ivoire and all the way to Gambia.
After the independence in 1960, there were plebiscite asking people here whether they would like to join the new Ghana or stay alone. The people overwhelmingly voted for that change and these parts became part of Ghana from 1956.

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