Sapo Conservation Centre opens in Liberia

A new conservation centre has been established at Sapo National Park in Liberia through a collaborative project initiated by Fauna & Flora International (FFI). Launched as part of the park’s 30th anniversary, the centre will serve as a research and training facility for forestry professionals, lecturers and students.

After 14 years of civil unrest during which the forestry sector in Liberia was severely affected, the need for capacity development in the sector has been strong. The crisis has had a negative impact on Liberia’s biodiversity as deforestation from uncontrolled logging has led to a significant reduction in the country’s forests.

Liberia is home to many endemic species, and is a forest stronghold in West Africa, containing two-thirds of the remaining intact Upper Guinean Forest.

Overseeing the rich natural resources of the country is the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), responsible for the conservation and utilisation of Liberia’s forests. Until now there have been no targeted facilities in Liberia to support scientists looking to advance knowledge of the country’s rich biological resources.

As Sapo National Park (Liberia’s foremost protected area) marked its 30th anniversary, partners joined the FDA to celebrate the establishment of the new Sapo Conservation Centre at a celebratory event on 8 June 2013. The centre, which has been established for the training of Liberian forestry professionals, was officially opened by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon. Morris Dukuly.

“We have not done much in terms of regenerating and restoring our natural habitat – our rainforests and the animals that dwell in them. It is my hope that this research centre will help in the renewal process by identifying ideas and strategies that can be used to replenish our animals, particularly the rare animals that were destroyed as a result of unmitigated violence perpetrated against them by different groups,” said the Minister.

The establishment of the centre was supported by funding from the Darwin Initiative, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Basel Zoo.

“It is hoped that the centre’s research activities will feed directly into the poverty reduction strategy of the Liberian Government through the production of urgently needed information on local livelihood strategies and sustainable utilisation of natural resources. This will ensure communities’ needs can be integrated as part of successful forest resource management,” added Dr Chloe Hodgkinson, FFI’s Liberia Programme Manager.

The Sapo Conservation Centre project is a collaboration between FFI, the FDA, the University of Liberia, the Forestry Training Institute and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Sapo Conservation Centre is currently supported by generous funding from The Darwin Initiative and The Arcus Foundation.

The centre is expected to promote collaborative research between Liberian and international academic institutions, while generating baseline information on Liberia’s rich and unique biological diversity. The centre is targeting forestry professionals, lecturers and students, and will serve as a hub for ecological and socio-economic research and conservation training in the south-east region of Liberia.