FDA, Sen. Botoe Kanneh Clash over Bushmeat

Sen.  Botoe Kanneh and the confiscated bushmeat.

The Forestry Development Authority (FDA), through its Wildlife Confiscation Unit of the Forest Conservation Department, has seized and burned a huge quantity of bushmeat in Gbarma, Gbarpolu County, linking Senator Botoe Kanneh to this offense against Conservation Law.

The FDA has renewed its vow to remain unbent in the deterrence exercise consistent with the National Wildlife Conservation and Protected Area Management Law of Liberia 2016, and the Penal Law regarding extortion, Environmental Crime and Illicit Trafficking in Human Beings and Migrant Smuggling of Liberia of 2013.

The laws prohibit the illegal hunting and killing of endangered wild animals, illegal purchase, transport or sale of those rare and endangered wild animals and their manufactured products in the country without fear of favour and the Penal.

The burning ceremony which took place on September 16, 2021 ensued when the Gbarma Magisterial Court adjudged suspect Peter Wonmein guilty of illegal killing of wildlife and fined him USD250.00 to be paid in government revenue.

Gbarpolu County is said to be an epicentre of mass killings, purchasing and transporting of wild animals by illegal hunters and bushmeat traders who, FDA alleges, are backed by Senator Botoe Kanneh. According to the FDA, her alleged connection to these illegal acts is “highly regrettable” especially in these days and times when Liberia is signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), etc. and is thus under the obligation to abide by those treaties and protocols nationally, regionally and globally.

According to the Manager of the Wildlife Confiscation Unit of the FDA, Mr. Ali Kais, Senator Kanneh continues to interfere with the implementation of the laws protecting Wildlife in the country. He alleged that Senator Kanneh and her bodyguards had earlier attacked members of the Forest Rangers at the Sawmill Check Point, Gbarpolu County last Monday when a suspect was arrested for carrying seventeen (17) bodies of dry monkey bushmeat with a little living monkey.

He noted that Senator Kanneh’s action poses a serious threat to FDA’s operation to protect wildlife species across the nation. He further narrated that his men were first attacked at Jenne Check Point along Bomi County to Monrovia Highway by Senator Kanneh’s bodyguards and forcefully took away eight (8) bags of confiscated bush meat.

He said, in a firm tone: “We cannot sit here as a government and allow a single hunter or group of individuals to destroy our biodiversity; it is important to note that these wildlife species attract tourism and the country stands to benefit enormously."

Responding, Senator Kanneh said “FDA and I are on it.  I will not sit here as a lawmaker and at the same time be a law breaker.  They are not doing their job but arresting hunters who have the right to eat meat from their community forest.”

Stressing further, Senator Kanneh accused FDA Forest Rangers of failing to enter the conserved forest to protect it.  Rather, she said the Rangers are along the farm roads, seizing meat from farmers and selling it to earn money.

“We have the conserved forest and the community forest, and the locals have the right to the community forest to kill meat and eat, not to sell.  But when the Forest Rangers see hunters with meat, they get it from them to see and make money out of it.  They are not doing their work, but giving the hunters problems in their own land.  If they are there to protect the conserved forest, let them enter the forest to see if hunters are going there to hunt,” Sen. Kanneh said.

According to him the suspect arrested was also found with six (6) single barrel shots, which were immediately turned over to the Liberia National Police (LNP).

FDA Communications Manager, F. Shelton Gonkerwon, in an interview said any law that does not consider the survivability of wildlife is incomplete. He also said any lawmaker who does not consider himself or herself an advocate for the protection of the forest and all of its constituent elements needs to examine himself or herself because, according to him, history awaits to judge harshly those who destroy nature. 

Mr. Gonkerwon, therefore, has advised Senator Kanneh to let go of those days when she used to advocate for the hunters in the Gbarpolu area while promising them to be their advocate when she succeeds to go to the Legislature. “Let Senator Kanneh put on a vestment of a senator or lawmaker, not only for human beings but also for the animals and the trees, among others.” 

He continued, “I am reminded about those days when the now Senator used to march with the hunters or bush meat sellers to FDA to plead on their behalf in case of confiscations. Let her know that any society where the law is made like a floor rag, such society renders itself vulnerable.”

But Senator Kanneh, in a sharp response, challenged FDA that she will not draw back from their “false” accusation but will acknowledge the public that they are not doing their work. 

“They are on the farm roads and not entering the main protected forest to search for hunters who break the law.  FDA thinks it can taint my character, but they and I are just starting.  If they think they can make the public go against me, they must also get ready to hear from me that they are not doing their work but using power on the poor hunters and getting money out of the meat they seize from them,” said Sen. Kanneh.         

According to Jallah Fahnbulleh, the Wildlife Protection Officer or the Humane Society International (HSI) assigned in the Western Region of Liberia, the prevention and protection of wildlife species are critical to preserving the biodiversity of Liberia. Mr. Fahnbulleh stated that the confiscation of protected animals and prosecution of violators will go a long way to curtail killing and hunting wildlife species in the country.

He indicated that HSI has been working with FDA to educate law enforcers about the significance of protecting the rights of animals across the nation. He urged the government and partners to hasten and put in place a robust mechanism, including the provision of other means of livelihood, as the killing and selling of bushmeat is not the only alternative to life.