The Cestos City Magisterial Court in River Cess County has fined one Comfort Walker US$100 for illegal possession of wildlife (a chimpanzee), contravening the governing laws that prohibit the illegal possession, adoption or killing of protected animals throughout the country, an FDA release has said.
It can be recalled that on May 21, 2019 the Republic of Liberia by and through the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) appeared before the court, and filed a complaint against defendant Walker for illegal possession of a chimpanzee.
In its complaint, the entity said the act of the defendant was unlawful, which contravened section 11.1g, illegal possession of wild animal, which also undermines an Act adopting the National Wildlife Conservation and Protected Area Management law of Liberia.
With no hesitation, the defendant pled guilty to the charges without any argument, and made an initial payment of L$10,000.
According to the ruling by Magistrate Benjones D. Wheagbah Sr., the fine was based on the “offender’s acceptance of the charges leveled against her in open court, void of any argument.”
The amount is the penalty for the first time offense to be paid to the government revenue account. The court says failure to make full settlement will result in a jail sentence of three months.
According to the release, the arrest operation and conviction, a cooperative effort by the FDA, Transnational Crime Unit (TCU), local police and Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection (LCRP), is the first of its kind as far as formal prosecution is concerned.
Over the past months, the FDA and its conservation partners have intensified the fight against the chimpanzee trade and wanton abuse of all wildlife by individuals, who willfully evade the right granted to protected animals to live freely in the wild.
The wildlife division in concert with the newly established wildlife confiscation unit at the FDA is exerting all efforts to educate the public consistent with the wildlife law. They have therefore called on the public to cooperate with the FDA in the fight against the abuse of wildlife, which remains cardinal in forest governance.
FDA was represented at the court by a four-member team, including FDA wildlife officer Jimmy Parker, FDA wildlife confiscation unit manager, Ali Kais, TCU officer Matthew Glay, and Mohammed Sidibey of LCRP.
In a related development, the FDA and stakeholders, including TCU, Interpol, the ministries of Justice and Internal Affairs, diverse group of local and international agencies and conservation organizations, have concluded a one-day workshop funded by the European Union (EU), aimed at promoting collaboration in combating wildlife and forest crime.
They discussed and presented workable modalities, whereby the effectiveness of governing law on wildlife and forest crime can be increased and improved. They also examined draft procedures and initiatives for the new Wildlife Crime Task Force, and promised to ensure that it becomes operational in light of the mandate of the law.
On behalf of FDA Managing Director, C. Mike Doryen, the acting head of the legal department, Attorney Gertrude Nyanley, reaffirmed FDA’s unflinching support for the protection and promotion of sustainable forest management, and all of its components of which wildlife and forest crimes are cardinal.
Nyanley called on stakeholders to be highly proactive in ensuring the law becomes a serious deterrent against the illegal wildlife trade.