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CREATING KAKUM At one time the coastal zone of West A*ica was covered by 600,000 krn2 of continuous rainforest, but due to growing human populations, farming, and logging the forest have shrunk by 72%, to a series of isolated "islands" of forests. Kakum, named after the Kakum River whose headwaters lie within the park's boundaries, was originally set aside as a forest reserve in 1925. The Kakum River and its tributaries supply fresh water to Cape Coast and 133 other towns and villages. In 1992 Kakum Forest Reserve was reclassified as a National Park. and the adjacent Assin Attandanso as a Resource Reserve. The protected area covers 360 km2. Kakum is the first national park in Ghana created by local initiative as opposed to that created by the State Agency responsible for Wildlife. Fifty-two villages and an agricultural landscape consisting primarily of food crops and cocoa surround the park. THE FOREST The forest in Kakum ranges from true rain forest - Moist Evergreen Forest - to seasonally dry Semi-deciduous Forest. It contains hundreds of species of herbaceous and woody plants. The forest is home to many endangered and rare mammals such as the Diana Monkey, Bongo, Yellow-backed Duiker and elephant THE CANOPY WALKWAY In March of 1995, Kakum National Park became home to the only canopy walkway on the Africa continent. The walkway provides both tourists and researchers priviledged access to the rainforest's canopy. The 350 meter long bridge connects seven tree tops; it is constructed of wire rope, aluminium ladders, wooden planks and safety netting. In order to protect the trees, no nails or bolts pierce the bark. Up in the canopy you may see species of birds and insects that are almost impossible to find on the ground level. The canopy walkway is a joint effort between Ghana's Wildlife Department and Conservation International, a US-based international non governmental (NGO) organisation dedicated to conserving ecosystems and biodiversity, with funding from USAID. HIDDEN CONNECTIONS Kakum is a unique rainforest filled with opportunities to learn about the hidden connections that keep the forest, and those who use it, alive. Walking along the Kuntan trail, you can learn about the medicinal plants which are used locally to cure ailments. It is possible to make special arrangements for visits to Mesomagor village which features traditional music and dancing: early morning and evening hikes; as well as forest elephant tracking. Searching for elephants, you may follow a path of footprints past their dung piles, or see mud lines on any ebony tree (locally known as "elephant comb") that was used as a scratching post. Amazingly, some plants can germinate only atter passing through a elephant's gut! Some vital connections can be seen, such as a butterfly pollinating a flower, while others are invisible like the stable climate created within and around the park by the forest.