Mole National Park is Ghana’s largest wildlife refuge. The park is located in northwest Ghana on grassland savanna and riparian ecosystems at an elevation of 150 m, with sharp escarpment forming the southern boundary of the park. The park’s entrance is reached through the nearby town of Larabanga. The Lovi and Mole Rivers are ephemeral rivers flowing through the park, leaving behind only drinking holes during the long dry season. This area of Ghana receives over 1000 mm per year of rainfall. A long-term study has been done on Mole National Park to understand the impact of human hunters on the animals in the preserve.
The park’s lands were set aside as a wildlife refuge in 1958. In 1971 the small human population of the area was relocated and the lands were designated a national park. The park has not seen major development as a tourist location since its original designation. The park as a protective area is underfunded and national and international concerns exist about poaching and sustainability in the park, but its protection of important resident antelope species has improved since its initial founding as a preserve.
The park is an important study area for scientists because of the removal of the human population from within the park allowing for some long-term studies, in particular, of relatively undisturbed sites compared to similar areas of densely populated equatorial West Africa. One study on the resident population of 800 elephants, for example, indicates that elephant damage to large trees varies with species. In Mole, elephants have a greater tendency to seriously injure economically important species such as Burkea africana, an important tropical hardwood, and Butyrospermum paradoxum, the source of shea butter, over the less important Terminalia spp.
Recently, honey made from flowers in the Molé National Forest has become the region’s first fair-trade commodity. Nearby villagers harvest the honey using traditional, non-invasive methods, and have partnered with a Utah-based company to sell the honey as a health and wellness supplement in the US. The program was co-founded by Ashanti Chief Nana Kwasi Agyemang, who hopes to re-ignite local interest in the honey and eventually export it to other countries in Africa.