The Daily Observer yesterday gathered that mob violence at the Sapo National Park in Sinoe County over the weekend reportedly resulted in the deaths of two forest rangers working with the Forestry Development Authority (FDA).
Police confirmed the deaths of the two rangers, and said they were brutalized while responding to an upheaval at the park.
Police spokesman Sam Collins said one of the forest guards died at the scene of the crime, while the other, who was left unconscious, died a day after the incident at a local health center to where he was rushed, following the attack.
Collins said a team of police investigators have been dispatched to the crime scene to probe the situation.
He told the ELBC that anyone found liable in the deaths of the two persons will be prosecuted.
Meanwhile, FDA managing director Darlington Tuaben has condemned the mob action against the rangers.
“This kind of behavior is no longer in any civilized world including Liberia. It is barbaric and unacceptable,” Tuagben said.
He said it was heartless on the part of community dwellers to kill individuals helping to protect the forest sector and its wildlife that provide other resources.
Tuagben said it is unfortunate that while government is doing all it can to preserve the national heritage and sourcing funding to empower the community, residents remain hostile to those maintaining the forests.
In the wake of the situation, Mr. Tuagben has called on the police authority to deploy armed men to work alongside the forest rangers to protect the park.
Meanwhile, an FDA delegation headed by deputy managing director for Administration Kedrick Johnson has been dispatched to the hostile zone to investigate the situation.
Sapo National Park
The Sapo Park is the country’s largest and protected rainforest. It contains the second-largest area of primary tropical rainforest in West Africa after Taï National Park in neighboring Côte d’Ivoire. Agriculture, construction, fishing, hunting, human settlement, and logging are prohibited in the park. But over the years, intruding hunters and illegal miners have pillaged the park to the extent that the government has warned them of eviction.
Sapo National Park is located in the Upper Guinean forest ecosystem, a biodiversity hotspot that has “the highest mammal species diversity of any region in the world,” Conservation International has said.
For that reason, the government mobilized monitors and agents from the Ministry of Justice to evict ‘encroachers’ in the park, who recent reports say are carrying out illegal activities in the national forest reserve.