On Wednesday, May 22nd the Environmental Protection Agency and its partners joined other nations around the world to celebrate International Day for Biological Diversity or World Biodiversity Day. The day was held under the local theme: “Our Biodiversity, Our Future”.
Ahead of the celebration in Liberia, some experts in the area of biodiversity penned several articles published in some local dailies in Monrovia. Below is one of the pieces.
Our Biodiversity, Our Future
By Wing Crawley (FFI), Jenny Desmond (LCRP) and Shadrach Kerwillain (FFI)
Mama Liberia is blessed with the largest remaining portion (42%) of the Upper Guinea rainforest; a forest that runs through Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Togo. Our forests are exceptionally diverse with thousands of plant and animal species, many found nowhere else in the world. However her biodiversity is greatly suffering, especially from hunting for the bush meat trade.
After habitat loss, the most immediate threat to many threatened species is large-scale poaching. The illegal wildlife trade in Africa has an estimated value of$7 - $10 billion per year, making it an extremelylucrative business,second only to narcotics, human trafficking, oil and counterfeiting (EAGLE, 2019). Indeed these illicit businesses often go hand in hand. The African elephant, great apes and other species are not only at risk as we destroy their homes by clearing forests for development, logging and agriculture but illegal hunting (poaching) and organised trafficking arereducingwildlife populations at an unprecedented rate.At current levels of exploitation, our children and grandchildren will not be able to see many of the wonderful animals that are a key part of our culture and tradition.
Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection (LCRP) was established in 2016 to care for orphan chimpanzees who were being kept or sold illegally andso were confiscated by wildlife authorities. Some have experienced unimaginable cruelty, like Johnny who was chained to a tree by his neck for 10 years.Currently there are 42 chimpanzees in LCRP’s care, all but two are under the age of 5 – 6 years, eight were received by LCRP in the first quarter of this year. Many more chimpanzees have been reported and are yet to be confiscated. To get a baby chimpanzee away from his/her mother, the mother and other family members have to be killed. An estimated 10 adult chimpanzees will be killed at any one time. When you see one baby chimpanzee in the street, he/she represents 10 chimpanzees killed in the wild. The 42 orphans at LCRP indicate over 400 of the only 7000 chimpanzees left in Liberia are now gone forever, victims of the bushmeat and pet tradesin just a few short years! Imagine that – is it worth it?
The Western chimpanzee is protected by law in Liberia and is classified as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of NatureRed List of Threatened Species. This means the species is at an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild. Based on confiscation figures in the first quarter of 2019 and assuming that figure is low(accounting for undetected chimpanzees killed or being sold), Liberia is on track to losing an estimated 600 adult chimpanzeesevery yearmaking our population at a very real risk of being wiped out in the next 10 years. Unless we start respecting the law, andstop hunting chimpanzees for bushmeat and selling their babies for pets, our unborn children will only see them in books or in films.
The forest elephant and all species of pangolins are also protected by the law in Liberia, yet six elephants (that we know of) have been killed in Liberia already since January!Pangolins – the most highly trafficked mammal in the world - are subject to widespread hunting for bushmeat and traditional, but unproven medicines. Liberia has 3 species of pangolin, all listed as threatened and we continue to see them every day being sold as bushmeat in our capital city.
Liberian wildlife, dead and alive, is also sold over our borders into places like Sierra Leone and Cote D’Ivoire and even internationally to countries like China and the Middle East. Ivory is sold for decoration, chimpanzees for entertainment, shells and body parts for jewellery. One of the products highest in demand is pangolin scales for health purposes, even though there is no scientific evidence showing they are in any way effective as a treatment.How much longer will these species survive in Liberia?
Death is a part of life. It comes to us all. But extinction – that is something else. Extinction means all the individuals of a species have died and we will not see that species ever again. Never ever!
It has been written that “extinction is the death of birth”. Is that what we really want to pass on to our future generations?
Pleasetake a moment to think about that, before you decide to buy that sweet bushmeat or that chimpanzee as a pet for your children to play with.
To report an orphan chimp or other illegal wildlife crime, contact the Forestry Development Authority Wildlife Division.