Welcome to Duasidan: Where there’s a graveyard for dead monkeys

Dormaa  Ahenkro – The mystery, myth, rich history, and uniqueness of the Duasidan Monkey Sanctuary in the Dormaa Central Municipality of the Bono Region of Ghana makes it arguably the best, if not one of the very best tourist sites in the country.

This is accentuated by one major feature – the site of its queer monkey burial ground.

Monkeys in this Sanctuary, part of a closed forest – are located near a sacred grove, where ancestral ceremonies and sacrifices are offered occasionally and holds the history behind the monkeys. The forest is host to three monkey species in the forest namely the Campbell Monkey or locally known as Kwakuo, Spot-nosed monkey or Ahenhema and Oliver Colobus monkeys or what’s locally known as Asibe.

Duasidan is nine kilometres away from Dormaa  Ahenkro, the Municipal Capital.

Visitors and observers who often patronize the site give an unusual reverence, good treatment and respect just like you would for any other god/s to the monkeys. Same is extended to the natural vegetative cover which harbours various species of trees, bamboos and animal.

Local people still hold the belief that a person can lose his or her life for failing to respect the lives of these monkeys when they deliberately kill or cause injuries to them-whatever their intentions may be. There are grave and severe consequencies or what is perceived to be the wrath of the gods is visited supernaturally in the form of strange chronic diseases, or culprits suffering deformity, especially those guilty to have killed or injured a monkey at the Sanctuary. It will require ritual interventions and pacifications of the gods for forgiveness and confession to reverse or revoke such-inflicted curse.

Mr Michael Adjei, a tour guide remarks one of the last thing they would ever do is to allow hunters and inhabitants to hunt down the monkeys. It is completely forbidden. The inhabitants unanimously or collectively, gang up and chase individuals who flout directives not to kill these animals. The natives also hold these animals in high esteem and regard them so much.  The monkeys at the Sanctuary bear funny local names such as ‘Abrewa’, an Akan word which translate to ‘an old woman’ and some foreign names such as Comfort, Vida.

Duasidan is a small farming community with a population of 200 people. It takes 20 minute drive from the Municipal Capital to the community. Majority of the inhabitants are small holder farmers who cultivate cash crops such as cocoa, and while others are petty traders.

Historically, the people of Duasidan trace their roots to Denkyira. They had first settled at Amasu. Their ancestor then known as Nana Asiedu, was a hunter who used Duasidan as his hunting ground. He established his hunting camp under fallen tree.

The tree provided him with excellent shelter, whenever it was raining and as the tree functioned exactly like a house, he named it Duasidan, to wit, “tree builts a house”. This is how the community came into existence.

Another exciting and interesting feature to find at the place is its cave, which houses a lot of animals notably among them, the crested porcupine.

A fetish priestess then a sister to Nana Asiedu had predicted that the monkeys were the children of the land and had cautioned that nobody should harm or hunt them. The respect for this taboo is what has significantly contributed to preserving the place all these years. The sacred cave is sited at the grove.

It’s not very clear how long the monkeys have been in Duasidan which is about four generations old.

Pipelines and taps are almost non-existent in the area. That said, it’s not so difficult to find clean drinking water. You can even find and buy in the area’s dusty streets cold sachet water, bottled water. Only two boreholes serve the entire community, one is broken down already. The single borehole left is the only source of drinking water for inhabitants of the community, for both household and domestic activities.

A few metres walk from the path that leads into the Sanctuary is a tree feet signpost showing the graveyard for the monkeys on the left hand side. Two monkeys are buried there. One is call John. Shot dead three years ago by  hunter who was returning from a hunting expedition who incidentally had met the monkey sole ranging the beautiful forest.

History has it that the killing of the monkey had sparked an outrage angering and grieving the inhabitants who later had mounted some hot chase for the hunter. But they never would find him.

“Someone shot John. Others claim the person who shot the monkey, was a native of Duasidan, later on became mad. We do not know the person’s where about till today”, adds Nana Dinisa, the Chief of Duasidan.

It was later revealed to a fetish priest at Kofi kumkrom that one of the children of the land had been wounded and was demanding a bottle of palm oil to treat the wounds to avert any calamity.

The palm oil was provided and kept at the sacred site and peace was restored. It is said also that one man from Dormaa upon seeing the monkeys had remarked that he was going home for his gun to come and kill them. He fell sick when he got home. He swelled up and died. Till date anytime a monkey die and the corpse is seen, it is giving a fitting burial.

Monkeys at the sacred grove share very unique characteristics. They can wander from their point of location at Duasidan to Masu which is more than 300 kilometres away. And return to location. They go as far as Pampaso, also in the Municipality which is about 250 kilometres away and sometimes interact with inhabitants in such communities.

“If they are monkeys from the grove, at a call they invade homes and engage in playful activity with inhabitants there. But those that are not from the Sanctuary would not naturally respond to such calls,” the Chief stated.

Nana Kwasi, Town Planning Committee Member and Focal Person, Ghana Dedicated Grant Mechanism(DGM), a Non-Governmental Organisation(NGO) revealed the Sanctuary is currently being managed by the Committee.

The organization, he discloses has undertaken a number of activities and still rolling out some to preserve the forest and the Sanctuary including fighting climate change and promoting research, and improve the social life of indigenes in the area.

“They include fencing parts of 15 hectares of the forest to shield it against rubbish and garbage, enactment of law to prevent hunting, construction of mechanized boreholes for the community, earmarked a site for the construction of a reception facility, partnering the Forestry Commission(FC) for the supply of seedlings to plant 1,300 trees in the forest,” he stated.

Nana Kwasi acknowledges that they struggle daily for funds to run the place, noting “we need funds to print brochures about the Sanctuary for visitors who patronize the place”.   

Nevertheless, there is huge prospect for socio-economic development of the area achievable by the development of its promising tourism sector. Several facilities at the Sanctuary f upgrading and providing facilities such as visitors’ information centre, summer, and infrastructure such as roads leading to the area remains in poor condition.

Not much has been done by the government and previous administration in terms of providing summer huts, accommodation, hotels, guest houses, restaurants for those tourist who may want to visit the Sanctuary. This typically sets the facility behind in the category of an ideal tourism destination for those who may one to come for long vacation.

Huge opportunities lies in wait for the private sector to explore, and work to enhance the socio-economic development of the area, now that plans by the local authority to upgrade facilities is not forthcoming or delayed.

At a Meet the Press event held recently Mr Drissa Ouattara, the Dormaa Central Municipal Chief Executive had given a clear indication that the development of the Sanctuary were in the plans of the Municipal Assembly. He didn’t specifically spell out exactly what the plans were or how they intend to execute that undisclosed plans.

“It is in our plans,” he simply and briefly remarked.

Mr Jospeph Appiagyei, Acting Bono Regional Manager, Ghana Tourism Authority(GTA), had revealed that a proposal which comprehensively details plans for a receptive facility and other infrastructure for the Sanctuary has been submitted and waiting for appropriate response and action from superiors in Accra.

In his view, the area’s strategic location by virtue of its proximity to Ivory Coast makes it necessary, vital and appropriate to upgrade it through value addition which would create synergies for improvement of local economy.

“We intend to carry out this initiative with the support and in collaboration with local authorities,”he added.

Mr Lawrence Kwame Antwi, immediate past Assembly Member, Yawkrom Electoral Area, which also encompasses Duasidan, had observed during his tenure as a member of the Assembly, various budgetary allocations for the provision of a summer hut and other vital facilities were factored into the Assembly’s composite budgets.

“When we demanded from the Assembly why they were not giving attention to the development of the place although it has been captured in the budget, they said not all projects were executed under the composite budget.

“If the funds targeted for the execution of projects under the District Assemblies Common Fund(DACF) was reached, what was left was to be used for those remaining projects according to his understanding.

“The persistency with which I pursued this subject was overwhelming but this didn’t yield much results because of the partisanship dimension issues at the Assembly had taken in getting this done for the community, “ he continued.

It was deduced from Mr Antwi that he had battled severally with the Executive Committee (Exco) members of the Assembly over this matter whom he noted always desire to push, advance and serve the interest of the government of the day its policies, something he described as a very, “familiar culture and patter”, within the District Assembly’s system and concept today, rather than looking at the overall interest or priorities of that community.

Patronage of the Sanctuary usually peaks during festive seasons – on Christmas, Easter, during the celebration of Kwafie festival, celebrated by the Chiefs and people of Dormaa to clean, sanitise, rid communities of filth. The festival celebration is also to resolve outstanding disputes between families and promoting peace in the spirit of neighbourliness. END           

   CAPTIONS & PICTURES BELOW

1. Mother monkey and child

2.A monkey burial ground

3. Beautiful bamboos at the Sanctuary

4. Entry to the Sanctuary

5.  The Duasidan Community

6. Nana Kwasi, member of Town Planning Committee with some monkeys

7. Visitors’ Interactive Centre

8. A sacred groove where ancestral ceremonies and sacrifices are offered occasionally

By Robert Tachie Menson

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