-FDA, partners reinforce collaborative effort to fight wildlife and forest crime
John Z. David, who successively killed more than six elephants in his predetermined act to ruin the wildlife generation for commercial purposes and personal gain, has been arrested, taken to court and sentenced to one-year imprisonment, a release from the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) has said.
John, according to the release, also suffered a US$2,500 fine when he pleaded guilty to the commission of the crime.
The culprit, who hails from Kpowansanyea Town, Salayea District, Lofa County, told the joint security team led by FDA representatives and partners during a recent investigation that, as part of an organized crime syndicate, he had killed many elephants in his drive to gain fame and become a possible replacement for his mentor, who trains individuals in the highly illegal activity.
Narrating his story, John said that “On September 14, 2019, I went to Ma-vortor to help with the road construction work, but while on my way back to Camp Peewee, I saw some elephants and killed a small one among them with my single barrel gun,” John confessed.
Shortly after he confessed to the Salayea Magisterial court to killing the animal, John was charged for hunting and killing of a protected species and being in possession of a firearm as stated in section 6.3.2 & 17.9 of the Wildlife and Protected Area Management Law of Liberia.
In its ruling against defendant John, the court stated: “Wherefore and in view of the foregoing, defendant John is hereby guilty of the crime of hunting and killing of a protected species and being in possession of a firearm. Therefore, you are hereby sentenced to one-year imprisonment, and will pay a fine of US$2,500 or its Liberian dollar equivalent.”
According to the forest law, elephants are an endangered species and are fully protected, according to chapter 13 of the Wildlife Law of Liberia, Appendix I: List of Fully Protected Animals (a). And the law states that “The hunting, capturing and destroying of animals listed in this Appendix, without a valid permit, license or certificate issued by the Authority is an offense under the provisions of this Act.”
On this multipurpose mission, the joint team of investigators also confiscated two live chimpanzees in Zorzor City, Lofa County, from Korpo Kollie and Lorpu Lormount. The two suspects were taken to officers of the Liberia National Police (LNP), charged and sent to the Zorzor Magisterial Court for prosecution, which is consistent with Section 6.3.2 Protected Species Controls (a) Except as provided in this Section: “No Person shall hunt, kill, capture, injure, harass, or trade any protected species, live or dead, or any part thereof, identified in the list established and maintained by the Authority under Subsection 6.3.(b)(2) of this Law,” and Section 11.2 Specific Offenses and Penalties (g) states: “Possession of live animal without permit or license, and the fine is US $100 to $150 or three months’ imprisonment.”
Both perpetrators were convicted, with Kollie charged a US$100 fine and Lormount pending contempt of court unless the fine is paid or prison sentence is served. This mission stemmed from an earlier trip led by the Society for Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL), during which there were reports of illegal hunting of elephants, commercial bushmeat activities and the trafficking of live chimpanzees.
The mission, conducted by FDA, LNP, Trans-National Crime Unit and the Ministry of Justice, was organized and supported by Flora and Fauna International, Wild Chimpanzee Foundation, and Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection.
Important initiatives like this are the result of highly collaborative efforts led by the FDA and its Law Enforcement Sub Committee under Liberia’s Species Working Group, and made possible through financial support from organizations such as the European Union, USAID WABiCC, the British government and more, and will continue as enforcement of Liberia’s wildlife laws are declared as one of the country’s highest priorities.
FDA and its partners are equally prioritizing nationwide public awareness’ activities and education, to ensure the long-term protection and conservation of Liberia’s unique wildlife and biodiversity.