Liberia: Woman Prosecuted, Fined in Rivercess County for Illegal Possession of Chimpanzee

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Rivercess County –The Cestos City Magisterial Court in Rivercess County has fined a lady identified as Comfort Walker with US$100.00 (one hundred dollars) for illegally possessing wildlife – a chimpanzee.

According to a statement from the Forestry Development Authority, Madam Walker was fined for “contravening the governing laws that prohibit the illegal possession, adoption or killing of protected animals across Liberia”. 

“It can be recalled that on May 21, 2019, the Republic of Liberia, by and through the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) appeared before the court and filed a complaint against defendant Walker for illegal possession of a chimpanzee,” an FDA statement said.  

“The Republic of Liberia by and through the FDA in its complaint said the act of the defendant was unlawful, criminal, wicked, wrongful, intentional and malicious, which contravened section 11.1g, illegal possession of wild animal which also undermines an Act adopting the National Wildlife Conservation and Protected Area Management law of Liberia.”         

The statement said defendant Walker has since pleaded guilty to the charges and has made an initial payment of L$10,000 (ten thousand dollars). 

According to the ruling by Magistrate Atty. Benjones D. Wheagbah Sr., the fine was based on the “offender’s acceptance of the charges leveled against her in open court void of any argument, the statement maintained. 

The amount is the penalty for a first-time offense to be paid to the government revenue account. 

The court says failure to make full settlement will result in a three-month jail sentence.      

FDA says the arrest operation and conviction carried out through a cooperative effort by the FDA; Transnational Crime Unit (TCU), local police and Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection (LCRP), is the first of its kind as far as formal prosecution is concerned. 

Over the past months, the FDA and its conservation partners have intensified the fight against the chimpanzee trade and wanton abuse of all wildlife by individuals who willfully evade the right granted to protected animals to live freely in the wild. 

The wildlife division in concert with the newly established wildlife confiscation unit at the FDA is exerting all efforts to educate the public consistent with the wildlife law. 

They are calling on the public to cooperate with the FDA in the fight against the abuse of wildlife which remains cardinal in forest governance. 

Accordingly, FDA was represented at the court by a four-member team including FDA wildlife officer Jimmy Parker, FDA wildlife confiscation unit manager Ali Kais, TCU officer Matthew Glay, and Mohammed Sidibey of LCRP.

The communication added that stakeholders this week concluded a one day workshop funded by the European Union, aimed at promoting collaboration in combating wildlife and forest crime in Liberia. 

The stakeholders, including FDA, TCU, Interpol, the Ministries of Justice and Internal Affairs, and a diverse group of local and international government agencies and conservation organizations discussed and presented workable modalities, whereby the effectiveness of governing law on wildlife and forest crime can be increased and improved.

The statement said: “They examined draft procedures and initiatives for the new Wildlife Crime Task Force and promised to ensure that it becomes operational in light of the mandate of the law.” 

In welcoming the stakeholders on behalf of FDA Managing Director, C. Mike Doryen, the Acting Head of the Legal Department, Atty. Gertrude Nyanley reaffirmed FDA’s unflinching support for the protection and promotion of sustainable forest management and all of its components of which wildlife and forest crimes are cardinal. 

She urged all stakeholders to be highly proactive in ensuring the law becomes a serious deterrent against the illegal wildlife trade.              

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