18 Feb 2018

Volunteers help with Guinean Forest conservation

For its 2017 Nature's Heroes, the Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia named two of the people whose work has helped with conservation work in the Guinean Forest in West Africa

Reducing pressures on the forest and its rich biodiversity is critical work undertaken by these local volunteers © J Wardill
By Nick Langley

For its 2017 Nature's Heroes, the Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia named two of the people whose work has helped with conservation work in the Guinean Forest in West Africa. The two—Charles Boakai and Abama G. Kamara—have been responsible for significant changes in the attitudes and behaviour of local people, reducing pressures on the forest and its rich biodiversity.

Charles Boakai is acting president of the Gola Conservation Monitors, and Abama G. Kamara, has been a member of this group of volunteers for seven years. With the support of SCNL, the Gola Conservation Monitors have taken responsibility for the Lofa-Gola-Man complex Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA), an area of forest, marsh, bush, savanna and bare rocky slopes between the Lofa and Mano rivers in western Liberia.

The work of the Gola Conservation Monitors has contributed to the IBA, and especially the Endangered Gola Malimbe

 

The Lofa-Gola-Mano is host to restricted range bird species, including the Vulnerable White-necked Rockfowl (formerly White-necked Picathartes, Picathartes gymnocephalus) and Endangered Gola Malimbe (Malimbus ballmanni), and important wildlife includes African elephant (Loxodonta africana, Vulnerable) pygmy hippopotamus (Hexaprotodon liberiensis, Endangered), chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes, Endangered) and Diana monkey (Cercopithecus diana, Vulnerable).

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Gola Conservation Monitors has contributed to knowledge on the Endangered Gola Malimbe © David Monticelli

In addition to using their excellent relationships with colleagues and local people to raise conservation awareness around the IBA, the two nominees have played key roles in the introduction of fish ponds as a sustainable local livelihood. In addition to providing cash from the sales of harvested fish, this initiative has helped to reduce the former pressure on forest wildlife from the bushmeat trade. The provision of microloans has enabled local women to set up their own businesses in local markets, and the participation of women in local decision-making has increased.

As well as contributing to the wider conservation of the IBA, the two nominees have worked to improve the status of the Gola Malimbe.

“Under Charles Boakai, the work of the Gola Conservation Monitors has contributed to the IBA, and especially the Gola Malimbe”, says Emmanuel M. Loqueh of the SCNL.

“Abama G.  Kamra has a good working relationship with his colleagues and also cooperates with partners in research work”, says SCNL's J. Walker Tokpah. “He was involved in the establishment of the Gola Forest National Park.

Liberia's Gola Forest National Park, which merges across the border with Sierra Leone's Gola Rainforest National Park, was established in September 2016 after years of lobbying by BirdLife Partner SCNL, with the support of other Partners especially the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) and Vogelbescherming Nederland. 

Liberia's Gola Forest National Park was established in September 2016 © J Wardill