Linking Journalism with the Web of Life
Prior to the 14 years civil war, Liberian wild animals were exploited primarily for their meat –bush meat – which was sold throughout the country. The bush meat was commonly seen as quartered antelope or whole monkey, wood-smoked until dry enough to last for about two weeks. The recent appearance of fresh wild animal carcasses (bush meat of different species) in various parts of Monrovia, particularly, in Sinkor, opposite the UN Drive Supermarket, and in Paynesville at the SD Cooper and Tubman Boulevard intercession, is so common these days that the public at large is concerned about the frequency of their sightings. Questions regarding laws or regulations to control hunting of this valuable renewable resource to sustain relatively available protein supply to people while at the same time provide livelihood to others, are constantly asked. Sometimes a whole group (family) of a species (adult males and females with their young) can be seen lined up for sale in these locations. Frequently asked questions are: what is the government doing to protect and conserve these animals? Are there any laws on the books to do so and who is in control of this program? A case in point is the recent confiscated endangered and threatened leopard skin at Roberts International Airport.
While the government is best suited to respond to these questions, generally and for sure, the wildlife (wild animals) are a valuable renewable natural resource that is critical and important to most people survival, if protected, managed, conserved (wise use) and exploited for different uses – scientific research, medicinal, economic, social, cultural, ecotourism, food, traditional, etc. – for the benefit of all Liberians. Since wild animals have traditionally been used in Liberia as a major source of food especially for protein, and there has never been any kind of comprehensive survey to assess the overall financial value except for a bush meat public opinion survey conducted by the Philadelphia Zoo in 2002 (January – December) and provided information on a partial preliminary estimate - the total estimated trade value of bush meat, according to the survey, was US $78 million (US $46 million Rural and Urban at US $31.2 million). The value of wildlife, notwithstanding, has always been ignored and down played.
Biologically, Liberia’s forests are exceptionally diverse, with high rates of endemism and harboring many more species that are nearly extinct outside the country. Liberia’s exceptionally diverse biological heritage with high rates of endemism harbors many more species that are heavily extinct outside the country. This environment provides a unique haven for scientific research, education and ecotourism development. Home to over 2,900 flowering plants including about 240 timber species, and approximately 125 mammal species, 590 bird species, 74 known reptiles and amphibians, 162 native fish species, and over 1000 described insects. Notable fauna include a significant populations of forest elephant (Loxodonta africana cyclotis) in West Africa and several viable populations of the pygmy hippopotamus (Hexaprotodon Liberiensis), as well as the Jentink’s Duiker (Cephalophus jentinki), the Zebra Duiker (Cephalophus zebra) and the Liberian mongoose (Liberiitis kuhni), is an attraction for many Scholars and Tourists seeking knowledge and experience in wild places. The Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia will like to help the government in the speedy creation of the network of protected areas which is expected to cover 1.1 million hectares of land. This we believe will serve a representative of all ecosystems and will no doubt secure most of the Upper Guinea Forest Hotspot species.
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