LIBERIA: TRADITIONAL LEADERS HONORED FOR PROTECTING SAPO NATIONAL PARK

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The Government of Liberia(GoL), through the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and its collaborating partners, has bestowed honors upon scores of regional and traditional leaders, local government as well as judicial officials from Grand Gedeh, Sinoe and River Gee Countries for exceptional service.

This was in recognition of efforts exerted over the years alongside the FDA and partners, which have resulted in the clearing of the Sapo National Park (SNP) of illegal occupants thereby giving some level of freedom to the park as far as the intent of its creation is concerned.

Preceded by a parade through the principal streets of Greenville City, the colorful occasion held at the Greenville City Hall, Sinoe County on July 18, 2023 It was organized in commemoration of the 2023 World Chimpanzee Day.

The government said the clearing of the park of illegal occupants, which has provided some level of breathing space, would not have been possible without the involvement of the traditional leaders, whose wisdom and traditional approach led to the peaceful eviction of those illegal occupants whose activities had caused destruction in the park for so long.

Making a special statement for and on behalf of the government and FDA, the Technical Manager for Conservation, Jerry Yonmah, described the honor bestowed on these individuals as well deserved and named the honorees as men and women of virtue who have and continue to stand their ground to protect and conserve the SNP generally regarded as a national heritage.

He encouraged them to continue such gestures unabated in the interest of today’s and future generation and promised that plans are being concluded from the end of the government/FDA to support these men and women to continue to keep surveillance on the park for a period of 6 months after which a collaborative management framework will be designed for more effective management of the Park.

Mr. Yonmah used the occasion to appeal to each and every Liberian citizen to realize the fact that naturally, we, as a country and people, are wealthy, but sadly the vast majority is yet to discover this undebatable fact adding, “…this is why our foreign friends and residents hardly leave our land because of the wealth we possess.’’

He thanked all FDA collaborating partners, including the Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the USAID/ Conservation Works consortium, made up of EcoHealth Alliance, FFI, Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection (LCRP), Solimar International and Partners in Development (PADEV) in a special way and hoped for continued tighter collaboration with them in order to make Liberia a truly conservation friendly country.

The honorees were formally presented to the FDA by FFI which has and continues to play a pivotal role in the landscape. The FFI, through its Project Manager based in the SNP, Matthew Varney, reiterated its unwavering support in making sure that the park is well protected at all times and that FFI will continue to work closely with the communities to ensure that the park gets maximum protection in line with the vision of the government.

For his part, the Traditional Council Chair, Chief Emmanuel S. Wesseh, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues, thanked the government through the FDA for the honor bestowed upon them. He praised God for giving Liberia such a huge treasure (Sapo National Park) and promised that they will continue to be vigilant in applying all traditional methods to ensure that the park is protected from criminals. He hoped the FDA and its partners will live up to their promise to meet the concerns of the communities.

Situated in Sinoe County, the SNP established in 1983 is Liberia’s first protected area (PA) and remains the country’s largest PA, containing the second-largest area of primary tropical rainforest in the Upper Guinea Rainforest Ecoregion in West Africa after Taï National Park in neighboring Côte d’Ivoire.

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