9 January 2018

Liberia: Elephants Go On 'Rampage' in Nimba

A group of elephants has resurfaced in the Gio Forest near Tappita District in Lower Nimba County destroying plantain farms and breaking down rice kitchens (storage barns), the Daily Observer has reliably gathered.

According to reports from locals around Sarr Yoolay Town in Boe and Quella, a distant clan from Tappita, the five elephants spotted in the forest in recent days entered villages, causing havoc.

At a certain point, a source said, the elephants ate plantains that were aboard a truck that had developed mechanical problems, and was parked along the roadside.

The presence of the elephants has reportedly created fear in the minds of the farmers in the hamlets surrounded by forest. The report said in over 40 years such a raid by elephants has not occurred, "least to say, have entered villages to destroy the harvests."

The Gio Forest extends as far as Tappita, bordering towns near the Liberia/Ivory Coast border, around the Kparblee District. Until the arrival of PROSPER, an American non-governmental organization (NGO), the forest was threatened by subsistence farming activities, but those activities came to a halt when the NGO began supplying some necessities to the locals.

The forest was surveyed with the help from PROSPER to show its farming demarcation. The survey caused several persons who had encroached on the land to vacate.

However, the Administrative Commissioner of Doe Administrative District, Samuel Nanpah Wheyee, has welcomed the return of the elephants, and warned local residents not to harm any of them.

Mr. Wehyee said the elephants had earlier crossed over to the Ivorian side of the border seeking refuge when their habitat in the forest came under attack from farming activities, "but now that the forest is being reserved by PROSPER, the animals are returning to where they have previously resided."

Wehyee said villages that were reportedly ransacked by the elephants were situated deep inside the forest, "and so it is time that those who have their villages there relocate."

Mr. Wehyee blamed the locals for farming in the forest, "because they did it illegally, so whatever they have planted there, belong to the elephants or any endangered species roaming that forest."

Anyone who shoots any of the animals will be prosecuted under the law, he said.

The Gio Forest is surrounded by three administrative districts, including Doe, Kparblee and Boe, and Quillah. It was once inhabited by wild animals and birds, among them leopards, giraffes, antelopes and eagles.

The forest was surveyed by the Germans in the 1950s and named, "Gio National Forest," under the protection of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), the same as the Sapo National Forest and the East Nimba Nature Reserve.

Hunters who attempted to stabilize the elephants explained how they set some traps for the animals.

"We were afraid of the way these animals operate; as they moved, you see trees falling everywhere," one of the inhabitants told Radio Tappita.

The FDA local office has urged the citizens to keep away from the elephants by hanging a piece of red cloth close to their village to deter them.

The FDA also warned that killing an elephant is forbidden under the law, and therefore, anyone who harms them will face jail sentence.

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