The newly established Wildlife Crime Task Force (WCTF) which collaborates with the Wildlife Confiscation& Anti-smuggling Unit of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) has confiscated four (4) large bags containing pangolin scales at the Saclepea checkpoint, Nimba County, believed to be destined for trade through Guinea.
According to an FDA release, the taxi cab with license plate #A216838 conducted by one Lamene Kamara in which the bags of pangolin scales were being conveyed was reportedly heading from Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County. A thorough check by the FDA employee assigned at the Saclepea checkpoint soon unveiled the actual contents of the bags contrary to earlier assertion of the driver that the bags contained farina. It was then the FDA employee who requested the assistance of the police in the wake of clear and glaring suspicion after which the bags were offloaded only to find out that they contained scales of pangolins.
The driver immediately absconded into hiding for fear of being arrested. A vigorous search is reportedly been launched for the escapee in Nimba.
The bags containing the pangolin scales are presently in the custody of the FDA at its headquarters in Paynesville awaiting further action. Meanwhile, the WCTF has commended the efforts of the FDA employee and the Saclepea police detachment for the job.
The Wildlife Crime Task Force represents a newly established collaboration of the FDA (who is taking the lead in the WCTF) the EPA, the Transnational Crime Unit, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, Interpol, LCRP and LiWisa. The WCTF is also collaborating closely with the Ministry of Justice and the advisory team, the Law Enforcement Sub-Committee of the Species Working Group of Liberia.
The aim of the WCTF is to effectively enforce Liberia’s Wildlife Conservation and Protected Area Management Law. This law is designed to protect Liberia’s unique and greatly threatened wildlife. “Illegal activities such as poaching, bush meat consumption and pet trade are decimating the country’s wildlife and natural environment,” said the FDA. Currently, awareness surrounding the law is limited; enforcement lacking and hunting activities are uncontrolled and unregulated. The illegal wildlife trade of live animals and their parts is rapidly growing locally and internationally, putting threatened species on the brink of extinction. The FDA says it is its hope that Liberia will serve as a model for effectively fighting these crimes and ensuring the protection and conservation of her natural heritage.
A few years ago, at CITES’ Conference of the Parties, where the world’s conservation agencies meet, pangolins received appendix I protection. Appendix I represents the highest level of protection offered by the organization and pressures the 183 affiliated nations to enforce the strictest possible conservation measures.
There is a new wildlife law in Liberia that was passed in November 2016, and it states that it is now illegal to eat, keep, catch, sell, kill or transport (endangered) wildlife in Liberia, including the pangolins.
The Ebola crisis of 2014 had put a temporally halt on the consumption of bush meat, only to start over again after the disease was under control. last week the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) burnt a sizable quantity of confiscated bush meat (150 pieces)from the South East and North Western parts of the country, thereby sounding another warning to all those involved in the illegal trade.
Essentially, pangolins conservation in Liberia is being championed by the Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary, the first and only wildlife rescue center for different animal species in Liberia. It is located right next to the Libassa Ecolodge, near the Atlantic Ocean, in the forests of Kpan’s Town, Margibi County.