Key discussions and protocols fostering the mandate of the recently established Wildlife Crime Task Force (WCTF) have been developed by stakeholders at a two-day technical working session held August 13-14, 2019 at the FDA Compound in Mt. Barclay, Montserrado County. The workshop was funded by the European Union (EU) project
“Strengthening Local Communities and the Law Enforcement Network to Combat Wildlife and Forest Crime in Liberia”.
Under the banner of the Law Enforcement Sub-committee of the Species Working Group of Liberia, the workshop brought together specialists from the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), the Liberia National Police (LNP), the Ministry of Justice, Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection (LCRP), the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Environment and Development Associates (EDA), Fauna and Flora International (FFI), Libassa Wildlife Center (LiWiSa) and more. The development of protocols for the WCTF is a historic step in the battle against the depletion of Liberia’s wildlife, including the critically endangered Western chimpanzees and other protected species such as pangolins, forest elephants, duikers, several species of monkey pygmy hippos, to name a few.
Among the many pertinent issues discussed, participants prioritized the required legal framework critical to the successful execution of arrests, seizures and subsequent prosecution of wildlife criminals before the courts. Roles and responsibilities of WCTF partners were defined with core priorities and a roadmap for implementation were developed. In addition, the group identified gaps and advanced corrective measures and enforcement initiatives.
It was determined that while wildlife and forest crimes are on the increase and therefore warrant immediate counter action, it is important to utilize procedures and requirements consistent with the law. Comprehensive training for and collaboration between members of the WCTF and clear logistics will help ensure the success of the task force. The participants recognized the European Union and implementing partners for their demonstrated support and commitment to Liberia’s drive to combat national and international wildlife crime and look forward to continued cooperative efforts in protecting wildlife, the environment and biodiversity in the country and region. This workshop proved to be essential to full implementation of the law guiding wildlife protection and preservation.
As part of its unrelenting dedication to supporting Liberia in her drive to promote and protect biodiversity conservation initiatives, the European Union committed EUR 1.5M to combat wildlife and forest crime in Liberia and strengthen local communities and the law enforcement network.
The Wildlife Crime Task Force represents a newly established collaboration of the FDA (That is taking the lead in the WCTF) the EPA, the Transnational Crime Unit, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, Interpol, LCRP and LiWisa. The WCTF is also collaborating closely with the Ministry of Justice and the advisory team, the Law Enforcement Sub-Committee of the Species Working Group of Liberia.
The aim of the WCTF is the effective enforcement of Liberia’s Wildlife Conservation and Protected Area Management Law. This law is designed to protect Liberia’s unique and greatly threatened wildlife. Illegal activities such as poaching, bush meat consumption and the pet trade are decimating the country’s wildlife and natural environment. Currently, awareness surrounding the law is limited, enforcement lacking and hunting activities are uncontrolled and unregulated. The illegal wildlife trade of live animals and their parts is rapidly growing locally and internationally, putting threatened species on the brink of extinction. Liberia hopes to serve as a model for effectively fighting these crimes and ensuring the protection and conservation of her natural heritage.