New Funds Herald New Era for Liberia’s Sapo National Park

December 2005

A $975,000 grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) via the World Bank is enabling Fauna & Flora International (FFI) to significantly ramp up its support to Sapo National Park, still one of the best-preserved lowland rain forests in the Guinean Forests of West Africa Hotspot despite Liberia’s turbulent recent past.

A field technical assistant will start working with local rangers this month, renewing FFI’s capacity-building efforts, boosting local morale, and ensuring the Park’s staff and basic infrastructure are properly equipped. An overall project manager is expected to begin in January to work alongside the Liberian Forestry Development Authority (FDA).

FFI began working in the region in 2000, providing support to the management of the park. A 2002 grant from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) enabled FFI to continue supporting basic management of the park until civil instability in the country made it impossible to continue. The grant was later extended through this month to enable the organization to continue implementing the project.

Re-establishing effective management of the park, however, has been anything but easy. Former combatants returning from the war and displaced civilians had made their homes inside the park and only in August 2005 did the last of these illegal residents move on.

“From late 2002 until the start of the GEF grant, CEPF support to Sapo Park was the lifeline that kept the basics flowing to the Park and its staff when the security situation permitted it,” said Jamison Suter, FFI’s senior project adviser.

He said the GEF grant comes “at a time of great hope for Sapo Park and Liberia” because of recent developments, such as the democratic election of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

“With a return to law and order, economic reform, and good governance, conservationists can expect Sapo Park to be a cornerstone of Liberia’s fledgling protected area network and a magnet for international support,” Suter said.

The GEF grant enables FFI to continue strengthening institutional capacities for conservation in and around Sapo. Working with the park management and other local partners, this support will guarantee a long-term future for Sapo and its biodiversity, which include globally threatened species such as the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) and pygmy hippopotamus (Hexaprotodon liberiensis).

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