Sapo National Park Threat Still Underway in the Republic of Liberia

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

January 16, 2002

Despite public protestations concerning logging incursions into the proposed extension of Liberia's Sapo National Park in mid-December, the Royal Timber Company, under a concession given them by the Liberian government, continues to build roads into these forests and extract logs. The wood is being carried to coastal port facilities and loaded onto ships for export.

Numerous conservation organizations are considering the problem at the present time and are expected to urge the Taylor government to intervene and halt these destructive activities in Sinoe County pending the evaluation of long-term proposals to annex these forests as part of Liberias only national park. There is not much optimism, however, that their efforts will have any impact at all upon government policy, which, so far, has given lip service to conservation while going about logging in a secretive and indiscriminate manner. Nonetheless, appeals will be made in hopes of averting the loss of these forests.

Dr. Phil Robinson, former chairman of the Society for the Renewal of Nature Conservation in Liberia, and who participated in the original survey work that led to the establishment of Sapo N.P. in the early 1980s, sent notice to many organizations about the tragedy that is underway near Sapo National Park in December of 2002.

Robinson reports, "In early December there were two roads cut into the proposed extension area, one above Chebiohs Town that goes in at least 1.3 miles, and another near Fonias Town that is at least a mile and half deep. Rapid removal of timber is already underway. The timber activities in the Grebo region of southeastern Liberia have also picked up considerably, in efforts that seem to be designed to get the timber while the getting is good."

The Sapo region forests are home to endangered and threatened animal species such as the Chimpanzee, Pygmy Hippopotamus, Forest Elephant, Jentinks Duiker, White-Breasted Guinea Fowl and numerous other wildlife types. The region has been designated by conservationists as a "biodiversity hotspot" in Africa.The loss of these forests from road building, hunting, settlement and logging deal a severe blow to the conservation efforts of many organizations who have assisted Liberia over the years. Thus far the Liberian government has been silent about this entire situation while the saws and trucks are still running within sound distance of the national park.

Previous work in and around Sapo have been sponsored by the World Wild Life Fund, National Geographic Society, Zoological Society of San Diego, New York Zoological Society, Toronto Zoo, Fauna and Flora International, Rainforest Action Network, the World Bank and other individuals and foundations.