Liberia's Governance Commission (GC) Chairman, Dr. Amos C. Sawyer has officially launched the country's first ever Wildlife Sanctuary. The facility which is located at Libassa Ecolodge, Marshall in Lower Margibi County is intended to preserve the country's wildlife species locally eaten as bush meat and taken for pets.
Performing the launch, Dr. Sawyer lauded the management of Libassa Ecolodge for such wonderful innovation that grew out of its passion to protect wildlife.
He challenged Liberian Government officials and especially those in the extractive industry to "think more innovatively."
"There is no need to strangulate the private sector only because one does not want it to grow. The partnership between government, civil society, NGOs and the private sector should always be win, win and win. I would like to take this time to congratulate FDA for building from strength to strength," Dr. Sawyer averred.
In a special welcome remark, both Mr. and Mrs. Rudolph Antoune described the Sanctuary as a realization of their dream.
According to them, the dream began eight years back when Libassa Ecolodge was under construction and it was their love of nature and wildlife that pushed them in this adventure.
"At that time, we found it unacceptable to see wildlife sold on the streets of Monrovia just to become pets or bush meat. We quickly realized that this was not only our fight, but the fight of the entire nation.
It was not hard to find people with goodwill who also wanted to fight along with us. This is how we teamed up with the SCNL and the FDA."
After many months of dedicated works, Mr. and Mrs. Antoune were proud
to announce to Liberian conservationists that another brick has been placed in the wall to protect precious wildlife here.
"In our presentation, you will hear about our challenges and our successes. We are not at the end, rather only at the beginning, as there is more to be done," the Antounes said.
Expressing hope that the Sanctuary will inspire all attendees at last
Saturday's launching ceremony and many others to lend hand to the conservation of nature and wildlife in Liberia, the couple noted that the fight ahead in this endeavor is very long and difficult, but will be won.
Also speaking during the occasion, Forestry Development Authority
(FDA) Managing Director, Darlington Tuagben, intoned that the new Wildlife and Protected Areas Management Law among other things, aims to maintain, protect and preserve wildlife as a national heritage and as well as address the central issues concerning wildlife and wildlife habitats.
Mr. Tuagben noted that the law also includes the management and protection of wild animals through the use of appropriate and internationally accepted best practices (such as the establishment of the newly launched wildlife sanctuary). It further encourages stakeholders' participation in wildlife related decision making and economic benefits.
He said, "Implementation of this unique instrument has just begun with the creation of awareness at all levels in order to sensitize communities and would-be affected stakeholders of the importance of working with the FDA and GOL in sustainable utilization of wildlife and wildlife products."
For her part, the Sanctuary Manager, Madam Julie Vaanassche underscored the need for Liberians and foreign nationals to volunteer their services to provide care for the animals.
"We need people to observe and monitor the animals at the sanctuary, but also after release. Scientists and students can use tracking devices when releasing animals to collect valuable data that can be used in scientific research. The sanctuary is free for children, as they are Liberia's future. Later, I will also give people the opportunity to sponsor an enclosure or they can virtually adopt one of the animals in our care by donating a certain amount every month," Madam Vanassche asserted.
As part of the event, scores of people were taken on a guided tour of the sanctuary, led by Madam Vanassche. The occasion was attended by high profile Liberian Government officials, foreign diplomats, educators, students and tourists among others.
Last Saturday's event was made possible through the sponsorship of Liberia Coca Cola Bottling Company, Champion Design, Harbel Supermarket and host Libassa Ecolodge.
The Libassa Ecolodge Wildlife Sanctuary is the first of its kind in Liberia. It is the fruit of a partnership between Libassa Ecolodge, Forestry Development Authority and Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia.
The Sanctuary will provide care and give support to confiscated wild animals kept as pets or destined to be eaten as bush meat, release confiscated wild animals back into the wild-whenever possible, encourage volunteer participation in nature work, train students and communities on wildlife protection and introduce behavioral study among others.