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2022 Whitley Award
Emmanuel Amoah Ghana Wetland and Freshwater
Tales from the Riverbank: Safeguarding the Last Stronghold of the West African Slender-Snouted Crocodile

The West African slender-snouted crocodile is one of the rarest crocodilians in the world and is in danger of disappearing for good, as rapid degradation of nesting areas and water pollution threaten their survival. Emmanuel and his team will expand work with communities to restore critical habitat and raise conservation awareness.


The West African slender-snouted crocodile is Critically Endangered, experiencing a 70-90% population decline in the last 75 years. They are feared extinct in many distribution countries, including Nigeria, Togo, Benin, and Senegal. Recent surveys suggest that the remaining populations are fast deteriorating, with the Techiman-Tanoso stretch of the Tano River holding the highest known population outside a protected area, numbering approx. 400 individuals. Without intervention, this stronghold looks set to suffer the same fate as its counterparts.


Indigenous groups living in the area have unique cultural beliefs and have long held traditions that are strongly linked to the Tano River. The river is worshipped and aquatic species are strictly protected against consumption. When a West African slender-snouted crocodile dies, locals pour libations and organise befitting burials as a sign of respect to the river god. The West African slender-snouted crocodile also has a disproportionately unique genetic history, where extinction will not only mean a big loss of evolutionary history, but also of indigenous cultural heritage.


Rapid riparian forest depletion of nesting riverbanks and freshwater pollution by domestic waste threaten the species’ survival. Emmanuel founded the Threatened Species Conservation Alliance in 2016 to safeguard the slender-snouted crocodile’s ’s last refuge and have already achieved a reduction in vegetation loss and illegal logging rates. Building on this success, he and his team will expand work with volunteers to mitigate habitat disturbance, replant degraded nesting sites and build local capacity and awareness. This project integrates science, practical action, and traditional beliefs, reaching at least 20,000 local people to protect one of the most endangered crocodiles in Africa.

Emmanuel and his team will:

  • Reduce vegetation loss on riverbanks where this species nests by at least 40% in 4 communities
  • Train 14 conservation champions across 4 communities to monitor threats and dovetail with awareness raising to halve illegal logging activities
  • Replant 30 hectares of degraded nesting habitat to boost crocodile breeding success

Top facts:

  • The West African slender-snouted crocodile is 45th on the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) reptile list
  • Parts of the Tano River are already highly urbanised, having lost over 80% of its original riparian buffer
  • Tree planting will improve watershed protection for the Tano River, benefitting 30,000 households

“I feel a sense of responsibility to work towards securing a better future for children and even the next generation.” – Emmanuel Amoah

Image credit: Vladimir Wrangel (featured image, crocodile)