Implementing effective management of Liberia's Sapo National Park
Sapo National Park, Liberia's largest protected area, is one of the most biologically rich and endangered terrestrial ecoregions in the world. It is home to many rare and endangered species, including the West African chimpanzee, pygmy hippopotamus and African forest elephant. A collaborative management approach to the area seeks to address threats to biodiversity and promote local livelihoods.
Established in 1983, Sapo National Park is Liberia’s oldest protected area, covering 1,804 km2 in the south-east of the country. Managed by the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) of Liberia, the park – which is exceptionally biodiverse – provides refuge to many rare and endemic species. Sadly, however, Sapo is under pressure from human activities including illegal hunting and artisanal gold mining, and the need to effectively manage this area cannot be overemphasised. Alongside our work to engage with communities to promote collaborative management, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) supports the FDA in managing its biomonitoring and law enforcement programmes, collecting and analysing information on species distribution, population and threats to ensure effective management of the park.
In order to ensure that this remarkable national park and its wildlife are preserved, we are working with local partners and communities to strengthen forest conservation and protect biodiversity through effective interventions, as well as securing habitat connectivity with surrounding forested landscapes.
We also aim to build the capacity of stakeholders to participate in effective biodiversity conservation, and to develop innovative practices, policies, and forest governance systems that empower key institutional partners to effectively implement park management practices at the local, national and regional levels.
Additionally, we are engaging with local communities to raise awareness about biodiversity conservation, while enhancing their capacity to support the management of the park. This work includes supporting sustainable livelihood activities that contribute to the improved well-being of park fringe communities while simultaneously reducing their over-reliance on the forests, which can adversely affect the park’s integrity.
FFI took a lead role in the development and revision of the Sapo National Park management plan. By integrating biodiversity survey results with the results from recent social assessments conducted with communities surrounding the park, FFI is ensuring that the implementation of the management plan provides a systematic and realistic approach to tackling threats to biodiversity – one that enables communities to participate and empowers local stakeholders to take charge of their natural resources.
FFI is also working alongside the FDA to improve the park’s law enforcement regulations. This is being done by introducing the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) to ensure more systematic patrols, by implementing revised patrol protocols, and by building the skills and capacity of rangers through training and ongoing mentoring.
A new management plan is validated and adopted for Sapo National Park.
Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) for law enforcement patrols is adopted in Sapo National Park. The first systematic park-wide camera-trapping survey is commissioned.
The all-female ‘eco-champions’ group is formed to support awareness-raising in communities fringing Sapo National Park.
A community-level governance institution is formed to promote collaborative management of the park and surrounding forested landscape.
Sapo National Park is finally free of all illegal mining activities thanks to a community-led campaign.
The Sapo Conservation Centre opens in Sapo National Park.
New species are recorded in Sapo National Park, including the first Liberian mongoose record and a new plant species - Cercestis hepperi jongkind.
FFI begins working in Liberia.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) uses a range of approaches to address the causes of habitat loss, but always works with in-country partners to ensure that the action we take is locally appropriate. Above all, we operate on the basis that success is contingent on working with communities and including them in all decisions that affect their daily lives, rather than creating ‘wildlife-only’ exclusion zones.
We are grateful for the support from the following funders for this project:
Shadrach Kerwillain, Project Manager Sapo Landscape