The villagers of Tafi Atome, in Ghana’s Volta Region, grew up listening to tales of their spiritual links to the 1,000 or so mona monkeys that inhabit the surrounding lush forest.
But they have also turned that reverence into revenue, by making the cheeky primates part of an eco-tourist attraction that benefits both animals and locals alike.
Francis Acquaye, the manager of the Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary and Cultural Village, said the monkeys and the forest were considered sacred until the 1980s, when the spread of Christianity eroded traditional beliefs.
The red, brown and white monkeys, which are found between Ghana and Cameroon, were soon hunted and trees were chopped down until the village became an eco-tourist attraction in 1996.
Now, thousands of people visit the sanctuary near the border with Togo each year. Some stay in the village to learn about rural life. The money earned has helped to build a health clinic, sink boreholes and renovate school buildings.