Liberia Marks Official Launch of Gola Forest National Park With Community Ceremony

Although Liberia’s 54th National Legislature signed the Gola Forest National Park into law on September 22, 2016, the new protected area was officially launched last month with a community-focused regional ceremony in Kungba District, SLC, Gbarpolu County. Over 250 people from local and national government agencies, non-governmental organizations, project donors and community members – including clan and town chiefs – attended the event.

Rainforest Trust worked with its local partner Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL) to help establish the 219,609-acre Gola Forest National Park, which is only the second national park in the country. It is located in Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount counties, along the border with Sierra Leone, where the park creates a transboundary complex of protection with Sierra Leone’s Gola Rainforest National Park. Together, these two parks safeguard one of largest remaining tracks of Upper Guinea Forest and form one of the largest protected area complexes in West Africa at nearly 400,000 acres.

Rainforest Trust’s local partner is committed to working with local communities to achieve lasting conservation results in this new park by having field staff visit communities regularly to ensure that they remain educated about and involved in the park designation and ongoing, long-term management.

“All of the staff of the Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL) deserve the highest praise for their dedication and efforts made for several years to inform and engage the regional traditional and district authorities and residents of villages and towns in the conservation of their forest as a national park,” said Rainforest Trust Senior Africa and Madagascar Conservation Officer Dr. Sally Lahm.

“It is reassuring to know that SCNL will continue to work with them into the future so that communities are involved in the management of their park.”

As one of Africa’s most important biodiversity hotspots, 60 species assessed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species are found in the area, including the Vulnerable Forest Elephant. Facing threats from habitat loss and especially poaching, Forest Elephants have suffered catastrophic population declines in recent decades. In addition, surveys in the Gola Forest National Park have identified 48 other medium to large-sized mammal species, including Diana Monkeys, Critically Endangered Western Chimpanzees, and three Endangered species: the Pygmy Hippopotamus, Jentink’s Duiker and Western Red Colobus Monkey.