Ghana’s sacred Paga Crocodile Pond, a popular tourist site located in the Upper East Region, has been a source of income for many residents, but the facility is fast losing its shine.
The facility that serves as a habitat for the harmless reptiles attracts averagely between 400 and 500 local and foreign visitors a month.
However, there are fears the pond could lose its fortunes and rich history if steps are not taken to rid the site of animal waste other filthy materials.
A story is told of a man called Naveh, who settled in the Paga township where the pond is located after the reptiles helped him cross a river to escape enemy attack many years ago.
He then promised not to harm, kill or eat crocodiles because he believed they were his ancestors and kept them in a pond.
Since then, the pond has become a favourite destination for tourists who travel miles to catch a glimpse of the friendly crocodiles.
The environment of the tourist site is however worriedly being taken over by cattle, horses and other stray animals.
These animals drop their waste indiscriminately and render the facility unhygienic.
Tourists are met with a strange and strong smell emanating from the environment.
The invasion by stray animals is the result of the community deciding to pull down a protective fence wall around the facility.
Manager and tour guide, Amidu Pagape, explains the action was to allow for free movement of the crocodiles into the community to lay eggs. “These crocodiles in the night walk into the community dig holes and lay their eggs. When the eggs hatch, they will now go back to the community and bring the babies into the pond.”
“At first it was fenced, but it is because of the activities of the crocodiles that is why the fence has been brought down so that they can freely move out anytime”. Mr. Pagape claims it is not dangerous because they are not harmful.
“In the night, you can meet crocodiles crossing the street but they don’t harm anybody,” he said.
To experience the crocodile, a visitor pays GHS 7.00 (about $2) for entry and GHS 10 (about $2.5) to buy a fowl with which to lure the crocodile out of the pond.
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So when I asked what the entry fee is used for, Mr Pagape says, “The place is owned by the community and the chief, so some of the money goes to part of the community developments”.
He adds that the pond area is cleaned every Saturday, but that is hardly evident.
The environment looks untidy throughout the week because stray animals are all always there to drink from the pond.
But looking at the numbers that this tourist site attracts, if the Ghana Tourism Authority does not do anything about it, the situation could drive potential tourists away.
Losing potential tourists means losing locally generated funds for other community developments.