On the 30th of March 2021, the Forestry Development Authority of Liberia (FDA) in collaboration with Fauna and Flora International (FFI) held a multi-stakeholder workshop to validate the management plan for the Sapo National Park (SNP), Liberia’s oldest protected area.
The park is located in southeastern Liberia, situated in Sinoe, River Gee, and Grand Gedeh Counties. SNP is the largest protected area in Liberia and was established in 1983.
It covers an area of 1,804 km2 (180,400 ha). The park contains extremely diverse ecological communities, distinctive fauna and flora, and a mosaic of forest types.
SNP is also a ‘regional center of endemism’, i.e. an area rich in species found nowhere else. It provides refuge and serves as the last stronghold for species such as the western chimpanzee, African forest elephant, and pygmy hippopotamus, some of the most threatened species in the world.
Speaking during the event, Joseph J. Tally, Deputy Managing Director for Operations at the FDA, retorted that understanding the role of the parks and protected areas in general is essential to the nation.
He stated that Sapo as the ‘mother park’ should be seen as an example of managing a landscape for social and ecological benefits.
He further emphasized the critical role that local leaders and traditional authorities must play in educating their people to be proud of their heritage by sustainably managing their resources for current and future generations.
The Technical Manager for Conservation at the FDA, Mr. Blamah Goll, said that the national validation is the final step towards the operationalization of the SNP management plan as a tool that will help support the proper management of the park.
The management planned development was by provisions in the 2006 National Forest Reform Law and the 2016 National Wildlife Conservation and Protected Areas Management Law. It is a technical document that sets out the managerial approach and goals for the management of an area, together with a framework for decision-making over a given period.
An adaptive management framework was endorsed as the implementation strategy. This will reinforce and foster connections between international best practices and locally adapted applications through interactive learning.
Meanwhile, on the 31st of March 2021, a symposium on the promotion of Pygmy Hippopotamus (PH) conservation using a landscape approach was held at the Golden Gate Hotel.
The PH (Choeropsis liberiensis) is a smaller but distinctive relative of the common hippopotamus. It is found only in the rainforests of Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. However, its home range is being severely reduced by human activities.
The symposium’s objective was to share information on a recently concluded project to promote the continuous survival in the wild of the endangered PH.
It also highlighted the importance of corridors to PH conservation and explored steps to establish ecological corridors in the face of competing land uses.
Landscape-level conservation provides a holistic approach to landscape management, aiming to reconcile the competing objectives of nature conservation and economic activities across a given landscape.
The project, which was from 2017 to 2021, was managed by FFI, with funding from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) and the Pygmy Hippo Foundation (PHF). The development of the SNP management plan was funded by the Arcus Foundation.
The deliberations at both the national validation workshop and the PH symposium were productive, with participants generating ideas that will form a part of the content of the technical document and associated implementation strategies.
The need for capacity development of governmental, non-governmental and community stakeholders, plus continuous awareness-raising, was emphasized to enhance effective management of species and conservation of biodiversity-rich landscapes by participants.
Both events included stakeholders’ participation from local communities and government agencies, including the FDA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Liberia Land Authority, and the Liberia National Police.
Representatives of local and international NGO’s came from Forest Cry Liberia, Farmers Associated to Conserve the Environment, Partners in Development, and Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia, Wild Chimpanzee Foundation, Elephant Research and Conservation, Environmental Justice Foundation and Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary.
Other participants included representatives from USAID, the Chinese Embassy, and Golden Veroleum Liberia Limited.