Establishing Liberia in the Body of Conservation Literature: The Work of Clement Tweh

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Although the name Clement Tweh may not be familiar to most Liberians, if one were to Google his name, almost every entry that pops up links his name to the first nationwide chimpanzee survey or conservation research in Liberia. Clement is an up and coming Liberian conservationist whose work on Liberian endangered chimpanzee species has resulted in several scholarly presentations and publications. The most recent of these was his poster presentation at the 27th International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB) and the 4th European Congress for Conservation Biology (ECCB) held from August 2-6, 2015 in Montpellier, France.
The meeting which was jointly sponsored by The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) with Agropolis international and the French Foundation assembled conservation professionals from the international community to deliberate conservation challenges and “present new findings, initiatives, methods, tools and opportunities in conservation science and practice. “ The meeting also served as an opportunity to welcome young researchers like Clement, scientists and conservationists from around the world.
Clement attended the meeting, with sponsorship from ArcelorMittal Liberia, and did a poster presentation entitled “Evaluating conservation needs in a West African biodiversity hotspot and an Ebola epicenter? The presentation was rooted in his claim that although Liberia was featured on international news prominently during the Ebola crisis, it has not received the international attention it deserves as a “regional conservation priority.” The grounds for this claim stem from his continued work in underscoring the threats to the endangered chimpanzee population in Liberia and his attempts to assess the socio-economic impact of Ebola and its effects on the “human livelihoods and society.” The aims of the research therefore were: to assess chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes versus) population status in Liberia, identify future conservation needs, quantify attitude changes towards bush meat consumption and meat preference in response to the recent Ebola outbreak and identify socio-economic factors that may influence these changes.
There were several important conservation and environmental issues concluded in this study. First, the study showed that Liberia ranks second only to Guinea in chimpanzee population. Guinea recorded 17,751 chimpanzees while 7008 were recorded in Liberia. Although Liberia is home to the second largest chimpanzee population, the chimpanzees in Liberia are the least projected populations in West Africa, our chimpanzees are the least protected.
In addition the study concluded that Liberia‘s current Proposed Protected Area (PPA) needs to be revised because they only partially overlap with current chimpanzee range, and under their current status would offer minimal protection for the endangered species. PPAs are areas that will be protected in the future. Clement argues that 70% of Liberia’s chimpanzee population occurs outside these proposed areas and therefore declaring those areas as PPAs will not help to conserve the chimpanzee population.
Lastly, the data from the socio-economic survey will scaffold the efforts of Liberian institutions in implementing effective conservation management and providing human populations with the ecological services they need.
In 2013 at the 13th Annual Conference of the Gesellschaft für Primatologie (GFP), University of Hamburg, held in Germany, Clement in collaboration with several of his colleagues delivered a presentation “Closing the data gap: results of the first chimpanzee and mammal survey across Liberia”. Through funding from ArcelorMIttal Liberia’s Biodiversity Conservation Program, he also studied at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, Germany. Clement is also a member of the World Chimpanzee Foundation, a nonprofit organization that is registered in Switzerland and aims to enhance the survival of the remaining wild chimpanzee populations and their habitat in the tropical rain forests throughout Africa.
When asked about his passion for his work and its impact, Clement had this to say: “The impact of my presentation and published article has a great impact in providing the first scientific and systematic data on Liberia’s wildlife for several years, and letting the world know that despite the effects of Ebola on Liberia, the country is still rich in biodiversity that is essential as a conservation priority.”

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