As part of a continued effort to save and protect endangered species of animals through awareness, the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) with partners toured major marketplaces in Monrovia and environs on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, sensitizing people on the importance of the existence of Chimpanzees and other animal species that are under threats of extinction.
July 14 is observed every year as World Chimpanzee Day, and on this day the FDA and its partners are under obligation to design a well-coordinated campaign aimed at creating all-inclusive awareness on the need to protect and conserve Liberia’s wildlife consistent with global principle, one of which tossed in Monrovia at several strategic locations including market places where bushmeat trade is customarily concentrated.
Supervised by the Forestry Development Authority (FDA)in collaboration with its traditional partners including the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF) and the Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue Protection (LCRP), members of the combined awareness team were drawn from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), FDA’s divisions of Wildlife, Public Affairs, Awareness and Ecotourism and the Confiscation Unit which was formed last year. Other members of the team comprised of Liberia’s leading drama group, the Eddie Theatre, and the Daily Talk group.
Team (A) visited the Rehab Market, ELWA Market, Old Road Market, and Rally Town Market while Team (B) visited the Red-light Market, Chicken Soup Market, Duala Market, Super Market, and lastly Free Port. T-shirts and flyers portraying the relevance of chimpanzees including their close relationship with humans were shared amongst the excited public, especially with the visibility of a giant size chimpanzee which was being conveyed in an open pickup. The chimpanzee would dance and wave to the viewing crowd. The chorus of the celebration song developed by the Eddie theatre filled the air and thrilled the seeming enthusiastic audience. At the close of every segment of the visit, the audience would sing the usual birthday song as a mark of their respect to the honoree (chimpanzee) called Mr. Caeser.
The song went thus: “Happy birthday to you, Mr. Caeser; happy birthday to you dear; we wish you long life and good health.” This was how the crowd paid tribute to Mr. Caeser as it is often done with human beings. A sense of humanity was being created given the honor and respect shown Mr. Caeser (chimpanzee) which lives in the forest kingdom yet remains man’s inseparable relative.
The Project Coordinator of the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation Odaphus B. Zardee amazingly remarked based on the conduct the exercise: “This exercise is much more practical and should be continued the next time we observe this day. If we continue this new method we will achieve the desired results,” he noted thankfully. For his part, the FDA Public Affairs Manager of the FDA F. Shelton Gonkerwon expressed delight in the awareness exercise and underscored its crucial nature as far as the role of protecting Liberia’s forest and all of its inherent biodiversity are concerned.
“If we are not allowed to eat these sweet, sweet meat what we will eat naa?”A market woman down waterside provokingly asked. “If you eat all the animals today and enjoy the sweetness, what happens when they are no more?” the team member threw the question to the market woman.
The conversation was joined by another market lady who seemed to be moved by the conduct of the exercise. “These people are doing the right thing for the country,” she said, being seemingly annoyed by the remark made by her colleague.
She continued,” When you are allowed to eat all the meat and die one day those to come in the future will suffer.” That was a joke that certainly contained the reality as it relates to the common attribute of the Liberian people towards critically endangered species, a joke that sends a clarion call to all patriotic Liberians to see the culture of conservation as a national value, a joke that truly contains wisdom and the element of nationalism. That is a joke that should claim the attention of the Liberian people as strive towards preserving and conserving wildlife remains a major challenge.
Hunters kill animal species indiscriminately without regard for such endangered species such as Chimpanzee, Hippopotamus, crocodiles, and pangolin amongst others. The FDA has checkpoints especially in locations where conserved forests are located, but the challenge is huge that despite the effort, bush meat sellers are seen with the meat of these species in the marketplaces.
Indeed, chimpanzees and men have similarities that are assigned by nature, something which makes chimpanzees men’s closet relatives with biological similarities. It is scientifically proven that about 98.6 percent of the DNA found in chimpanzees is also in men. Essentially, they play an important role in maintaining the forest and its biodiversity. They bear no anger and pose no danger to man. Tourists from all over the world are excited to visit Liberia to see these exciting species that nature has endowed the nation.
The wildlife law of Liberia has and continued to warn people against hunting and killing chimpanzees, cutting down the forest where they live, the pet trade and mining, and logging all of which threaten their survival.