Trans-boundary Park Unites Nations
08 Sep 2009
Presidents Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone and Liberia’s Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, recently met to officially open their new Trans-boundary Peace Park.
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Presidents Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone and Liberia’s Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, recently met to officially open their new Trans-boundary Peace Park. This 772-square-mile reserve unites the Gola Forest of Sierra Leone with the Lofa and Foya forests of Liberia — the largest remaining blocks of intact woodland in the Upper Guinea Area of West Africa.
Work to establish the protected area has involved several member organisations from BirdLife International. These include the Sierra Leone Conservation Society, UK charity — the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds — and the Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia, among others.
One of the richest biodiversity hotspots in the world, these forests provide safe corridors for the movement of wildlife, protecting over 50 species of mammal, including leopards and elephants. They are home to more than 2,000 varieties of plants, many of them rare and 274 breeds of bird, of which 14 are endangered.
The forests also prevent soil erosion, sequester massive amounts of carbon and keep climatic conditions optimal for the success of native crops, such as coffee and cocoa. They are an abundant source of wood and other non-timber products, medicinal plants and water, enabling rural communities to remain in the locality.
Resident Minister, William Johanna Smith, expressed delight that the two Heads of State had come together and made the park a reality. “This,” he said, “would actualise a long dream for the conservation of the area between the two sister countries and it would stand as a memorial to the long years of conflict.” While both sides are emerging from a long cycle of civil wars, Sierra Leone is best known for the infamous mismanagement of its diamond resources.
President Koroma announced that now the park had been established, further mining, logging or illegal cross border activities would not be permitted. To oversee this, the European Union and the French Government have financed the recruitment of patrollers and other park management groups. They are also funding community development schemes and helping to set up fledgling tourism facilities. “Without this project, the forest would have been destroyed in 10 years because Sierra Leone needs funds for its development,” said Alistair Gammell, the Director of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. “So, this park will give the country something very special to shout about.”
The new reserve is considered a flagship-protected area, as the two nations enter an era of stability and progress. It will also help to reflect the two countries in the positive light they deserve and inspire hope to other post-war regions emerging from their own turbulent pasts. “The new Trans-boundary Peace Park will serve as a symbol of our renewed commitment to peace, stability and conservation,” said President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf at the recent opening ceremony.
Contact: BirdLife International,
Wellbrook Court, Girton Road,
Cambridge, CB3 0NA
Presidents of Liberia and Sierra Leone
Photo: courtesty of Marc Argeloo / Vogelbescherming Nederland — Dutch Partner of BirdLife International
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