The southeast and northwest parts of Liberia are expected to get two new national parks – the Grebo-Krahn and Gola – an outstanding move by the Government of Liberia to protect the biodiversity of that area and promote wildlife tourism.
These two new parks brings to three the number of national parks in the country; notable among them is the Sapo National Park. Liberia’s forest is rich with endemic and endangered species, creating a very high level of conservation concern because, if not protected, government might in the near future lease it to a concession company.
This is because the area in which the parks are located are considered hotspot for concession companies, mostly those involved in the oil and logging business. The two new parks, one of which is the Grebo-Krahn, is situated between Grand Gedeh and River Gee counties. The Gola Park is largely in Gbarpolu County. Both parks were created by an Act of the 53rd Legislature in September, 2016, and August, 2017.
The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) in a press statement said: “The two new national parks cover nearly 200,000 hectares of high biodiversity areas as evidence of Liberia’s commitment in becoming a compliant nation in the sub-region consistent with international expectations.
“Liberia is supported by a number of collaborating partners that operate in the southeast and northwest of the country to assist the government deliver on its commitment for sustainable forest management, biodiversity conservation efforts, and livelihood improvement for forest dependent communities,” the released said.
The opening of the two parks, which was held by conservationists, aims to expand national network of protected areas and biodiversity hotspots in the southeast and northwest, a move which will encourage sustainable forestry management.
The two parks, according to the release, are part of the country’s proud natural heritage, which makes her the most forested country in the sub-region.
The establishment of the two national parks demonstrates the country’s commitment to biodiversity conservation and is consistent with the National Forestry Reform Law (2006) as well as international best practices and protocols.
The FDA release describes the proclamation of the parks as a milestone in the history of the Liberian forest sector, which it believes sets a firm foundation for the sustained management of the country’s forests.
“The FDA management shares the dream of enhancing biodiversity conservation as it believes this is the most sustainable way of ensuring a better future for generations to come and protecting the livelihoods of people living in forested regions.
“The creation of these parks is consistent with FDA’s mandate to establish a “Protected Areas Network,” together with conservation corridors, and incorporate existing national forests to cover at least 30 percent of the existing forested areas. FDA therefore pledges to work in concert with all partners, to ensure that the torch of their dream keeps burning,” the release added.
According to the release, President George Weah will officially launch the two new national parks today. This occasion follows those at the regional level in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, as well as in Gbarpolu County on April 14 and 18 respectively.
Meanwhile, the opening of the park might do very little to boost wildlife tourism in Liberia. According to tourism experts, this is because of the lack of quality tourism infrastructure at these parks, poor roads network and Internet connectivity are just few factors that would hamper the parks’ tourism potentials.
“You cannot promote wildlife tourism at these new parks, despite been rich in flora and fauna because the area are under-developed and suffers from lack of basic infrastructure as well as accommodation facilities. These things are huge factors that will discourage tourists from readily visiting the parks,” a tourism worker at the Ministry of information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, who begged not to be named, said.
The FDA management therefore expresses gratitude to the government, collaborating partners, the Liberia Forestry Sector Project (LFSP)/World Bank, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), German Agency of Technical Cooperation (GIZ), German Development Bank (KFW), European Union (EU), Society for the Conservation of Nature (SCNL), and Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF) as well as concerned communities whose efforts have resulted in the fruitful finalization of these areas as national parks.