FDA, stakeholders pledge to ensure robust implementation
A landmark one-day stakeholders' meeting launching West Africa's regional action plan for the protection of western chimpanzees was held in Monrovia on October 27, 2021. The meeting, aimed at raising awareness and garnering commitment for the plan's implementation, was led by the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and its collaborating partners.
The plan, covering the period from 2020-2030, was developed based on a workshop held in December 2017 in Liberia by all concerned stakeholders and other West African countries.
The plan, published by the Primate Specialist Group of the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), aims to improve the protection of critically endangered western chimpanzees, one of Liberia's most important flagship species.
The western chimpanzee is one of four subspecies and only remains in eight countries in West Africa, with Liberia hosting the largest forest-dwelling population.
Western chimpanzees are listed on the IUCN Red List as 'Critically Endangered' - the last step before extinction - meaning the species could soon disappear from the wild if radical and targeted measures are not put in place immediately and acted upon by all stakeholders.
The event was attended by concerned government institutions, concessionaires, diplomatic representatives, donors, conservation partners, academic institutions, and others, all present to ensure effective implementation of the action plan, which requires strong inter-sectoral collaboration.
Stakeholders solemnly pledged, "That at all times and with available resources, we pledge and commit to promote, support, report and implement the regional Action Plan for the conservation of western chimpanzees (pan troglodytes verus) 2020-2030 in Liberia and across the West African region."
They also "recognize the strategies, objectives, and actions developed in the Action Plan which are attached to this pledge and hereby approve same as an evidence of support by the signatories to the pledge... "
FDA Board Chairman, Mr. Harrison S. Karnwea, Sr., read the pledge and implored stakeholders to be committed to the document which he described as an important quest for the protection of nature.
In his welcome statement, FDA Managing Director Mr. C. Mike Doryen expressed the support of President George Manneh Weah to the conservation of Liberia's forest and emphasized the significance of the event, given that the habitat of western chimpanzees and other endangered species are being rapidly destroyed.
"There is a need to work together closely to design effective and urgent strategies to save the world's remaining chimpanzees populations from total destruction and to ensure the enforcement of Liberian and international laws and agreement protecting the western chimpanzees and other wildlife in Liberia," he said.
In remarks, UK Ambassador to Liberia Neil Bradley said his government is impressed and willing to support efforts geared at protecting the forest and all its constituent elements including endangered species.
He promised to work closely with the FDA and its partners in achieving this fundamental objective. Similarly, USAID representative to the occasion, Mr. John Pash pledged USAID's support to the process and hoped the stakeholders would live up to the commitment to champion the cause of protecting the remaining generation of chimpanzees in the sub-region.
The event was supported and sponsored by the Primate Specialist Group of the Species Survival Commission of the IUCN, rewild, the Arcus Foundation, the West African Biodiversity and Low Emissions Development (WABiLED)/USAID, the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation, and Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection.