New National Park Offers Protection for Forest Elephants in Liberia
Thanks to Rainforest Trust’s local partner, donors and other supporters, the 219,609-acre Gola Forest National Park– only the second National Park in Liberia– was declared on September 22. This new Park protects part of the Guinean Forest of West Africa, which contains astonishing levels of endemic plant and animal life.
Rainforest Trust worked with local partner Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia (SCNL) to help establish the Gola Forest National Park, which is part of an international conservation plan to create one of the largest Protected Area complexes in West Africa. By connecting with Sierra Leone’s Gola Rainforest National Park, the Liberian Gola Forest National Park is in effect establishing a crucial transboundary peace park protecting 395,226 acres.
“Rainforest Trust is proud to have played a key role in the creation of the Gola Forest National Park in Liberia, which not only protects many endangered species but establishes a bi-national peace park to strategically bring together Liberia and Sierra Leone — two countries greatly threatened by large numbers of oil palm, mining and logging initiatives in the region,” said Rainforest Trust CEO Dr. Paul Salaman.
“This is why Rainforest Trust has made it a priority to strengthen Liberian forests, and why we are grateful that the Liberian government, our partner and local communities have worked diligently to create the Gola Forest National Park to protect natural resources.”
The Gola Forest National Park is located in the Guinean Forest of West Africa, an area internationally recognized as one of Africa’s most important biodiversity hotspots. In total, 60 species assessed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species are found in the area, including Forest Elephants. Facing threats from habitat loss and poaching, Forest Elephants have suffered catastrophic population declines in recent decades.
In addition to Forest Elephants, recent surveys in the Gola Forest National Park have identified 48 other large mammal species. Western Chimpanzees, Western Red Colobus Monkeys and Diana Monkeys are widespread throughout the area, as well as Endangered Pygmy Hippopotamus and three Duiker species (a type of forest antelope). The new Park has already been declared an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International, with over 300 avian species recorded at the site.
With much of West Africa’s forests already lost to human development and less than 3 percent of remaining forests officially protected, wildlife in this biodiversity hotspot was previously under severe threat. Large blocks of rainforest, however, remain intact along Liberia’s western border with Sierra Leone, and are now protected through the declaration of the Gola Forest National Park.
Rainforest Trust’s partner SCNL is committed to working with local communities to achieve lasting conservation results in this new Park. Field staff visited communities to ensure that local people were educated and involved in the consent process needed for national park designation, and SCNL also developed sustainable finance and management plans for the long-term maintenance of Gola Forest National Park.
Rainforest Trust thanks all of its supporters that helped to make possible the creation of Gola Forest National Park, especially Luanne Lemmer, Eric Veach, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, European Commission, Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation as well as an anonymous donor.
Header photo: Forest Elephants. Photo by CIFOR.