Financial Constraints Render Elephants Vulnerable

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Financial constraints make it difficult for the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) to take appropriate measures to protect Liberia’s elephants, according to FDA technical manager for conservation, Theo V. Freeman.

As a result elephants in Liberia are vulnerable to poachers who hunt them for their tusks to further the illegal ivory trade, said Freeman.

In an exclusive interview Monday with the Daily Observer at the FDA head office in Paynesville, he pointed out that Liberia does not have measures in place to stop the wanton destruction of the country’s endangered animal species.

“We are not making concrete efforts in the preservation of our endangered animals owing to the bad nature of our hunting,” Mr. Freeman lamented.

He said “Some Liberians also go in the forest and kill dozens of our most vulnerable endangered species for commercial purposes.”

Such commercial activities, Freeman noted, have over years not generated any revenue to benefit the country.

To stop the poaching of animals requires a change of mind on the part of Liberians and laws to protect animals in the forest could be one of the approaches, said Freeman.

Liberia has several forest areas that host hundreds of elephants, and the last census conducted by the FDA put their number in the neighbourhood of 1800, he indicated.

The FDA Technical Manager also disclosed that no surveys were conducted on the monkey population, but pointed out that certain species of apes are under serious threat.

He said elephants are distributed in forest blocks in the northwest and southeast and there are five main ranges in the Sapo National Park, Grebo/Krahn Forest Park and other forest reserves.

During the height of the civil crisis, said Freeman, Liberian elephants migrated to Guinea and the Ivory Coast.

He added that those elephants have begun to return to Liberia but are now exposed to deforestation and difficulties in finding their routes used to migrate into Guinea-Conakry and the Ivory Coast.

On the challenges the FDA faces due to the lack of laws and regulations, Freeman said some proposed laws have been crafted and sent to the Legislature for enactment. The proposed laws include Forestry Reform, the Protection and Preservation of Forest Protected Areas,
which have been lagging behind and need to be enacted.

Freeman also referred to several collaborative partnerships with several highly acclaimed international conservation groups in the country including Fauna and Flora International (FFI), Conservation International (CI) and the Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL).

He confirmed that the World Bank has made some commitment towards the provision of funds to the FDA to close logistical gaps that could make the forest agency better equipped to cover its activities in the country.

The National Legislature needs to enact laws that will enhance the development and progress of the FDA, Freeman emphasized.

“I hope that our lawmakers would consider as very critical the passage of those laws to ensure the conservation and preservation of our forests and endangered species,” Freeman said.

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