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  • Writer's pictureEPI Secretariat

On a Mission to Preserve Liberia’s Forests

Updated: Mar 25

Mr. Blamah Sando Goll, is The Technical Manager at Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority (FDA), the government body responsible for conservation in that country. Blamah, our friend of the month in February, is also the EPI’s national focal point, helping us implement our projects in Liberia.


Blamah at the African Elephant Coalition (AEC) for East,West and Central African Range states in Nairobi, Kenya, 2019


Tell us more about where you are from, your background, and how it may have influenced your passion for Liberian forests.

 

I come from western Liberia, specifically Suehn Mecca District in Bomi County. Luckily, I got to grow up with my parents who were very passionate about the conservation of forests and other natural resources. My dad, the late Mr. Willie S. Goll, was a herbarium specialist – dealing with the collection of preserved plant specimens in the national forest estates of Liberia, while using the associated data for scientific study.   

 

Following in his footsteps, I started my career as an environmental awareness volunteer, and a wildlife research officer at the Sapo National Park. During my tenure, I understood that conservation was a collective effort, and appreciated the magnitude of the smallest conservation effort in making a big difference in the community. This was my drive to join the ‘army of conservationists’, who are out there preaching and spreading the good news of conservation.



Blamah speaking at the CITES Standing Committee Meeting held in 2023 in Geneva, Switzerland

 

What are some of your most memorable experiences with Liberia’s National Parks and elephants?

 

Some of my most memorable experiences working in Liberia's protected areas include:

 

  1. Leaving urban areas to work in isolated rural communities without internet, phone coverage, and with bad roads, unsafe drinking water, etc.

  2. Conducting regular conservation awareness within hard to reach areas or communities, to change minds and behaviours of hunters, farmers, miners, forest product harvesters and traders living in the buffer zones of protected areas.

  3. Gaining experiences in leading or participating in bio monitoring, assessments, evaluations, tracking elephants in dense and wet forest, and collecting data for analysis and reporting on population dynamics.

  4. Participating in and supporting site emergency response teams.  


Blamah speaking at the African Elephant Coalition (AEC) for East, West and Central African Range states in Nairobi, Kenya, 2019

 

According to this recent article, 68% of Liberia's land surface is covered by forests, making it the most forested country in West Africa. With rising concerns about human elephant conflict, what is the situation in Liberia?

 

Many of our forested landscapes face a myriad of threats including shifting cultivation, artisanal and large skill mining, over harvesting of natural resources and infrastructural development. Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) is a major concern in Liberia. Many assessments, research projects, and other practical interventions have been taken by the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and our conservation partners like the EPI.


Together, we’ve been able to develop the National Elephant Action Plan, and conducted several studies and developed strategies at different scales in order to prevent and mitigate human-elephant conflict in Liberia. Forest elephants in Liberia have endured rapid population decline, losing more than 86% of their numbers in just over three decades. The population of elephants is declining as a result of many threatening factors like poaching, illegal wildlife trade, outbreak of zoonotic diseases and climate change, etc.[MOU3] 

 


Elephant in Liberia

 

Since 2023, you have been collaborating with the EPI Foundation as the FDA technical manager, to help Liberia develop a gold standards solution toolkit. How will this toolkit improve elephant conservation in your country?

 

By strengthening storeroom management and security, as well as developing policies or guidelines regarding the long-term fate of ivory stockpiles. I believe that collaborating with the EPI Foundation and other West African elephant range states actors/institutions, partners and donors will provide an effective avenue for stopping wildlife products like ivory from re-entering the illegal wildlife trade, and it contributes towards an increase in successful prosecution of wildlife crimes.

 

To conclude, let me leave you with these words of Marcel Proust which also describes my perspective on conservation, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscape, but in having new eyes.”



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