Liberia: FDA, Partners, Concur On Enforcement of Wildlife Law

At World Pangolin Day celebration

The Forestry Development Authority (FDA), Conservation International (CI) and other partners, have concurred to exert efforts in combating the illegal hunting and killing of wildlife with a high emphasis on Pangolin.

During the celebration of World Pangolin Day on February 15, in the Duport Road community in Paynesville, FDA Managing Director, C. Mike Doryen, said: "We will not leave any stone unturned in enforcing the Wildlife Law, and will ensure that violators will face the law without fear or favor."

The observance of World Pangolin Day is the beginning of the FDA's and its partners' public awareness on the protection and conservation of Pangolins consistent with the new wildlife law passed in November 2016 that prohibits illegal hunting, possession, trading and killing of protected animals, including pangolins.

The celebration brought together Conservation partners with FDA officials and workers, and representatives of the European Union who also have a key interest in the protection of Liberia's forest and biodiversity. Also participating in the street march were schools carrying placards bearing inscriptions informing people, "Don't kill the 'Ants Bear' (Pangolin); stop illegal hunting."

Dwelling on the instrument the government has created to protect wildlife and Pangolin, the Executive Director of the Society for Conservation of Nature in Liberia (SCNL), Jerry Garteh said: "Librarians must respect the law protecting wildlife because killing them is illegal. The government that made the law should also stand by the law to make it work because if the law is not working, it is undermining the government itself."

According to the FDA, Fresh research indicates that there are 8 species of pangolins in the world (4 in Asia, 4 in Africa) including the white-bellied pangolin (Phataginustricuspis), the black-bellied pangolin (Phataginustetradactyla) and the giant pangolin(Smutsiagigantea), three of which exist in Liberia.

Because the Asian species are already close to extinction, many pangolins are being poached all over Africa to be shipped to Asia (mostly China and Vietnam), where they unrightfully believe the scales of the pangolin serve medical purposes and where the meat is considered a delicacy. This makes pangolins the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world. Their scales are wanted more than rhino horn, elephant tusks or tiger parts combined.

According to research, an estimated 1 million pangolins have been illegally traded in the last 16 years and given the current increased scarcity, it has been difficult to estimate current populations of the 8 pangolin species. However, international pressure has been mounted to prevent the pangolin's extinction. A few years ago, at CITES' Conference of the Parties, where the world's conservation agencies meet, pangolins received appendix I protection. Appendix I means the highest level of protection offered by the organization that urges the 183 affiliated nations to enforce the strictest possible conservation measures. In Liberia, all pangolins are protected by law: it is a federal crime to hunt, kill, eat and keep them.

All confiscated pangolins are brought to the Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary. The Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary, in collaboration with the Forestry Development Authority, is the first and only wildlife rescue center for different animal species in Liberia and was founded in 2017. Their main mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release confiscated protected animals. So far, 52 pangolins have entered the sanctuary and 34 have been released back into the wild.

"Pangolins play an important role in keeping the forest healthy: they are the only mammal in West-Africa to control ants and termite populations. Without pangolins, the forest we rely on for oxygen and timber will be destroyed. That is why it is of great importance to preserve pangolins in Liberia," says FDA.

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