Liberia: Efforts to Conserve Gola Forest May Go Down the Drain, If…

MONROVIA – A group of illicit miners have evaded the Gola Forest National Park carrying on dredge mining in violation of the law establishing the Park.

The use of dredge in the National Reserve comes at the time the Liberian Government through the Ministry of Mines and Energy banned the dredge mining in the country.

An investigation conducted by the Environmental Media Group, Journalists for the Protection of Nature (JPN-Liberia), has confirmed the situation.

The mining is taking place on the Mano River that stretches through the Grand Cape Mount side of the Gola Forest National Park.

Some local people in the Mining Village of Camp Israel in Grand Cape Mount County said the dredge is owned by a notorious diamond miner only identified as Zaire Kamara.

They said Zaire Kamara lives in the diamond mining Town of Lofa Bridge.

Ziare’s team have spent more than two months doing dredge mining on the Mano River, where they have constructed make-shift tanks to live while conducting their activities.

Local Chief and Mining Agent Accused

However, accusing fingers have been pointed at Camp Israel’s town Chief Ibrahim Sambah and the Mining Agent in the area, Boima Sheriff, of providing corridor for Ziare Kamara and his team to move into the Park.

But Mr. Sheriff dismissed the allegations as “false and misleading” and nothing that he does not have any knowledge about the presence of the dredge in the Park.

“I am very much aware about the moratorium placed on the use of dredge in the mining sector so I cannot be the same person to facilitate such a process anywhere under my control especially in our National Reserve”, he said. 

“Let me say this, as a recognized and legal Mining Agent, I will not lead any process that will undermine the Ministry’s policy so let me assure the public that effective Monday, February 22, I will make sure that those mining in the National Park are removed”, Mr. Sheriff explains.

“The Ministry of Mines and Energy did not issue license to any company or individual to mine in the Park”, he said.

“I don’t know the boundary of the Gola Forestry National Park either do I know whether there is a park where the dredge mining is taking place therefore, I want the Forestry Development Authority to organize workshops for both FDA and Ministry of Mines and Energy employees so that we can know each other and work together to prevent any form of mining in the Park”, Sheriff told JPN team of journalists.

“Besides, what is happening in the National Park for the past two years, we have chased dredge miners in our control area and we remain committed to that,” Mr. Sheriff said.

“We are all humans some time things happened before we get the information and that was the case with the guys that took their dredge into the Park”, he explains.

The Executive Director of the Society for the Conservation of Nature (SCNL), Mr. Michael Garbo, condemned the act of dredge mining and continued hunting in the National reserve.

“It’s disheartening, frustrating and worrisome that we all agreed to create the National Park and to see today that people will move in the park to do dredge mining and illicit hunting,” Mr. Garbo expressed.

“The FDA is having rangers around the Gola Forest National Park, dredge is not a small thing that you can move with without anyone see it so how come this one happened”, he argued.

“It is a shame for the people to enter the ‘protected area’ to do mining and hunting after the EU, Rainforest Trust,USAID and even the Government invested millions of dollars to establish the Park,” Mr. Garbo emphasized.

“The Government through the FDA needs to do all in its power to ensure that those illicit miners can be brought to an immediate halt and restore the sanity of the Park.”

“People who are falsely using the name of the Ministry of Mines and Energy to do illicit mining need to be prosecuted to deter others from doing so,” he insisted.

The Gola Forest National Park (GNFP) is home to some of the world’s endangered wildlife species which include but not limited to the African elephant, Zebra Deiker, the wild Chimpanzee among others.

The area is also home to the recently discovered Golamalinbe bird species, the picathartes, as well as thousands of plant species that are only unique to Liberia.

Wildlife Threats

Human pressure continues to mount on several wildlife and biodiversity in the Gola Forest National Park especially from some unscrupulous including illicit miners and hunters are continuing their activities into the middle of the Park.

As local NGO and law enforcement officers exert efforts to curb the threats, these illegal activities continue to undermine best conservation practice.

These illegal activities violate laws creating the Gola Forest National Park and the Wildlife Act of 2015.

An investigation conducted by the group unveiled that live animals couldn’t easily be found for more than 40 kilometers walk into the National Park due to constant hunting of these wildlife. 

Fresh shells

During JPN’s investigation in the Park, fresh single barrel shells were seemed scattered in the park suggesting continued hunting of wildlife.

Hunters that go in the Park under the pretense of going to fish on the Mano River were the ones engaged in the hunting of bush meat in the Park.

Most of those fishing in the Park are based on the island between Mano and Moa Rivers as well as Kawelahum near neighboring Sierra Leone.

Kawelahum Assistant Town Chief only identified as Massally, was one person that took a group of people in the park to fish where they built their tanks to conduct their fishing activities.

JPN investigation established that Park is totally venerable to hunters, Fishermen and illicit miners because of the less presence of FDA Rangers in strategic areas of the Park.

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