“Journalists Are Integral Partners in Promoting Wildlife Conservation” – Wild Chimpanzee Foundation Country Director Dr. Annika Hillers
Paynesville – The Country Director of Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (WCF), Dr. Annika Hillers said the media has an important role in the promotion of Liberia’s rich biodiversity conservation.
Speaking at a two-day workshop aimed at building the capacity of journalists and public relations officers to report about wildlife conservation and Liberia’s protected areas, Dr. Hillers stated that in recent times, collaboration between government and non-government institutions is yielding fruitful results.
The training was sponsored by the West Africa Media Network in collaboration with WCF.
Speaking further, Dr. Hillers said for the first time in Liberia, people who committed wildlife crimes have been prosecuted and convicted, among them an elephant hunter who was given a one-year jail sentence and fined US$2500.
She blamed the constant violations of these conservation laws by the locals to the lack of awareness and education. She added her organization is counting on the media to form a partnership with the conservation community in creating awareness on the importance of conserving the wildlife.
Also speaking, the President of the Press Union of Liberia, Charles Coffey called for ‘sustained’ support to journalists to provide coverage of wildlife conservation activities in Liberia.
Mr. Coffey said in the midst of rapid decline of Liberia biodiversity, there was a need to form a network of journalists to partner with relevant stakeholders in creating awareness about the benefits of conserving Liberia it.
For his part, the Managing Editor of the West Africa Media Network, Joseph Wiah stated that a sustained media awareness and effective public education on the importance of wildlife conservation and Protected Areas will change the mind set and behavior pattern of Liberians, particularly rural inhabitants.
The partnership with WCF and the media, Mr. Wiah added, marks a major boost in creating awareness for the protection of wildlife and Protected Areas that remain viable to the sustenance and survival of the ecosystem.
“The West Africa Media Network concurs with development partners and stakeholders in the Forestry Sector that there is a compelling need to elevate the conversation about Wildlife Conservation and Protected Areas in Liberia from a media perspective,” he averred.
He furthered that the mass media is just as critical a stakeholder in wildlife conservation as any other agencies working in the field.
With many African species facing extinction, and the negative impact of poaching on nature, he noted the media must play its key role in sensitizing the public.
The training, according to him, will create vital links between the media, conservation agencies and local authorities in supporting sustainable wildlife and conservation efforts.
With special skills, techniques and orientations in Wildlife Conservation and Protected Areas, he said journalists will contribute to the overall improvement in media content, which will result in more reliable information and analyses dedicated to the protection and conservation of endangered species.
Meanwhile, at the end of the workshop, a media network was established to provide extensive coverage of activities on biodiversity conservation.
Liberia is considered a biodiversity hotspot. It has the largest portion of the remaining forest cover of the Upper Guinea forest and more intact forest characteristics.
There are about 2000 plants species, 140 mammals and over 600 birds’ species. Following the end of the civil war, Liberia, with support from it partners has put in measures including the legislation of several laws to protect its rich biodiversity.
Some of these laws include the National Forestry Reform Law of 2006, the Wildlife Conservation and Protected Area Management Law of 2016 and the Land Rights Act of 2018.
However, weak implementation of the laws and limited awareness and education remain ‘serious’ challenges.
With the involvement of the media, stakeholders including conservationists are hoping this will boost their effort in creating awareness and educating the public on the role and values of biodiversity and the importance of conserving it.