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The Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary is located in the Upper Volta Region Of Ghana. The Sanctuary is a community effort that continues to shine brightly as a success story for conservation that protects one of only two hippo pods that live in the Volta River,  Ghana.The people of the Wechiau traditional area established the community operated sanctuary in 1999. Norman's introduction to the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary came through the Calgary Zoo, partners in the award winning project.


" After visiting Wechiau, I saw first hand how the effort to protect the hippos have not only created a better environment for the habitat but also has improved the communities that reside within the sanctuary. There is something magical about Wechiau, to visit  the communities that make the sanctuary a better place for all of it's inhabitants is special. "- Norman Nemeth. Norman's travels have taken him  on two occasions to Wechiau, once in 2007  and then 2009.



The Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary is running a 40km stretch of the Black Volta River bordering Burkino Faso in North West Ghana. Norman has visited Wechiau twice, once in 2007 and again in 2009.


History of the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary


"The history of the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary and how it has evolved is an incredible story. This summary of Wechiau is a collection of tidbits and articles that I have gathered to share my passion for all things Wechiau."- Norman Nemeth.


The people of the Wechiau, according to local legend, began a special bond with the hippos long ago. The following qoute is from Legend of Wechiau Guide Book-People of the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary { WCHS}, chapter two.

"During the slave trade our people were running away to avoid being captured. They reached the Black Volta River and didn’t know how to cross. Then they saw the hippos.The hippos let the people go onto their backs and carried them across the river to safety. When the enemy came they saw only water and rocks. They tried to cross on the rocks, but, the rocks were in fact hippos! Once a good number of the enemy were standing on top of the hippos, the animals moved and the enemy fell into the river and perished. As a result, the hippo has become a sacred animal.”-Gurungu-Naa, Naa Bandanaa Chielinah2


It is the ancestors of both the people of Wechiau and the hippos that have created a bond that requires mutual efforts in protecting one another. The Black Volta River is home to only two surviving pods of hippos found in Ghana. In 1996 the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary was created to become home to one of the pods of hippos to be found in the Black Volta River.  The Calgary Zoo partnered with the communities of the Wechiau region to establish the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary. The symbiotic relationship between the people and the hippos continues to evolve to this day. To protect the hippos and their habitat, the people of this region of Upper West Ghana made great sacrifices. Many of the villages within the sanctuary moved away from the river to create a feeding/buffer zone for the Hippos, this was a huge undertaking. How can moving away from water and managing the environment benefit the people?

Wechiau Palace, Wechiau Ghana.


The communities that reside within the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary have benefited in investors such as  the Calgary Zoo Conservation Outreach, NCRC, and there are supporters as far away as Canada and England. Eco-tourism  is very well executed in Wechiau, with managing the environment the people of the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary has become a shining example of conservation. Since the birth of the sanctuary 17 bore holes for water, 540 solar light systems for people's homes, two Primary schools and a clinic are reality. Protecting the hippos has led to many developments that provide the benefits that both the environment and people of the sanctuary enjoy.

In 2008 the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary received two awards  from the United Nations Equator Prize. The awards recognize the best examples of reducing poverty through bio diversity.

" To visit Wechiau and see first hand how a community has created industry while protecting the environment is amazing. To be part of the communities that support the development of the Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary is special. I will always be Dreaming of Wechiau."- Norman Nemeth

 Upper Volta Hippo "

"Hippo from the Upper Volta River- Wechiau, Ghana."


The Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary- A conservation model for Africa.