— Pledge to collaborate with FDA and partners
The Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and collaborating partners have successfully concluded the distribution of copies of Liberia’s amended 2012 Penal Law and the 2016 Wildlife Conservation and Protected Area Management Law amongst police zones and depots including magisterial courts across Monrovia. The week-long exercise is aimed at increasing awareness in relation to prosecuting wildlife and environmental related crimes in Liberia and it is expected to continue in other parts of the country.
Amongst places copies of the laws were served were Careysburg Magisterial Court and Police Depot, Mount Barclay Police Depot, Bentol Police Depot and Magisterial Court, Pipeline Police Depot, Soul Clinic Police Depot, ELWA Zone 8 Police Depot, Johnsonville Police Depot, Paynesville Magisterial Court, Monrovia City Court, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Congo Town Police Depot, Slip Way Water Side Police Depot, Old Road and Airfield Depots. Others were Freeport Police deport, Kebbah Police deport, Gardnerville Police deport, Caldwell Police depot, and Brewerville Police depot. More than thirty police zones and depots benefited from the exercise, which is being described as a “good beginning.”
Making remarks on behalf of the team upon delivering the laws to the deport and zone commanders, FDA Wildlife Manager Abednego Gbarway emphatically stressed the need for law enforcement to be equipped with these important documents to aid in prosecuting wildlife and environmental related crimes. Many law enforcement institutions are not adequately aware of or informed about these laws since they were passed by the National Legislature. Mr. Gbarway used these occasions to solicit the full cooperation of enforcement institutions and promised that FDA and collaborating partners will support and rely upon them in the fight against wanton abuse of the rights of protected species.
The abuse of the rights of protected species runs contrary to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora to which Liberia is a Party (CITES) regulation.
In separate statements, the zones and depot commanders expressed excitement over the availability of these laws and assured the team of their maximum cooperation to implement the law accordingly. One motivated commander at the Soul Clinic Police depot was heard saying, “This will make my work easier. With this as reliance the job will now be easy.” Another in Kebbah police depot recommended that FDA and partners conduct additional workshops for enforcement institutions to ensure comprehensive understanding of the laws in prosecuting cases related to the killing and domestication of wildlife protected by law.
This groundbreaking awareness initiative was spearheaded by Liberia’s Wildlife Crime Task Force led by the FDA, including members from Interpol, Transnational Organized Crime Unit, Liberia National Police, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ministry of Justice, Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection and Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary. The WCTF is a part of Liberia’s Law Enforcement Sub-Committee under the Species Working Group of Liberia.
The aim of the WCTF is the effective enforcement of Liberia’s Wildlife Conservation and Protected Area Management Law of 2016. This law is designed to protect Liberia’s unique and greatly threatened wildlife. Illegal activities such as poaching, bush meat consumption and the pet trade are decimating the country’s wildlife and natural environment. Currently, awareness surrounding the law is limited, enforcement lacking and hunting activities are uncontrolled and unregulated. The illegal trade of live animals and their parts is rapidly growing locally and internationally, putting threatened species such as the western chimpanzee, pangolin, forest elephant and several species of parrots on the brink of extinction. Liberia hopes to serve as a model for effectively fighting these crimes and ensuring the protection and conservation of her natural heritage.
As part of its unrelenting dedication to supporting Liberia in her drive to promote and protect biodiversity conservation initiatives, the European Union committed EUR 1.5M to combat wildlife and forest crime in Liberia through its “Strengthening Local Communities and the Law Enforcement Network” grant to the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation and conservation partners. Establishment of Liberia’s Wildlife Crime Task Force was made possible. Other grants from the Illegal Wildlife Trade Challenge Fund and UK Aid from the British government to Fauna & Flora International are further supporting the efforts of FDA and the Wildlife Crime Task Force and partners.