Wild Chimpanzee Foundation

The Community Ecoguard Program (CEP) in Proposed Grebo Forest National Park (PGFNP) was established in January 2014 as a joint program to be implemented by the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) supported by the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation. It is meant 1) to collect data on anthropogenic threats, such as hunting, mining and illegal logging as well as animals that are present within PGFNP, and 2) to create awareness in communities surrounding the proposed park regarding the creation of PGFNP and the illegal activities taking place within its boundaries.
Due to the geography of PGFNP (it is located in both Grand Gedeh and River Gee counties), two teams of four community members were selected; one team to patrol the north of the park (Grand Gedeh) and the other to patrol the south (River Gee). Two workshops were held in each county at the beginning of 2014 where more than 80 candidates from all villages surrounding the park were invited to attend.
From these workshops, the final four team members for each county were selected. Each team was then joined by an FDA ranger (SteekTompoe for the north team and Milton Jarnewon for the south team) and also a WCF supervisor (Benjamin Queminee for the north team and Jimmy Parker for the south team).
In order to patrol the entire park effectively, PGFNP was divided into 4km x 4km grid squares. Each team is required to patrol 4km in each grid and each patrol mission consists of patrolling 10 grid squares (one per day). In PGFNP there are a total of 104 grid squares to be patrolled, which would lead to a total distance of 416km patrolled per cycle. Unfortunately due to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, missions were cut short in 2014. Therefore, during the 2014 phase 375.2 km were patrolled over 9 missions, representing an effort of 484 man-days (76 team-days) totalling more than 400 hours of patrol and more than 3,217 man-hours.During the patrols, data is collected on signs of anthropogenic activity, such as hunting (hunting tents, poacher trails, traps, gunshot sounds, cartridges and carcasses), farming activity (the area of any farm is calculated), mining activity (prospection sites, mining sites and gold washing sites) and human encounters (with any person met interviewed by the FDA ranger present). The results from 2014 show a total of 74 traps were found and destroyed by the ecoguards under FDA supervision. 48 farms, 12 mining sites, 24 hunting tents and 4 chewing stick camps were found and 60 persons met by the teams, and all of these encounters were registered. Mapping of farms and mines showed that 38.4 hectares of forest patrolled have been degraded.
After each mission the entire team then organizes meetings in three or four of the villages surrounding the park. During these meetings the team raise awareness on issues such as: the creation of PGFNP, the illegal activities taking place within the park boundaries, the dangers of eating bushmeat and Liberia’s protected species. The community then has the opportunity to ask questions to the CEP teams and discuss any issues that they may have. In total during 2014 and 2015 the CEP teams have visited 21 communities and interacted with 298 community members.
In 2015, the CEP methodology was adapted to maximize the chances of finding anthropogenic threats inside the park. Following on from the discovery of the illegal chewing stick harvesting, high levels of hunting, mining and farming within the park during the 2014 data collection., it was decided that the CEP teams would concentrate their efforts on human paths in order to encounter as much human activity as possible in the park. In addition to this, the CEP missions in 2015 are also more focused on revisiting human paths that were seen in 2014, but not followed, allowing for much more focused patrolling.The use of SMART conservation software is also being introduced to allow for the data to be analyzed automatically after each patrol. This will allow for a quicker feedback to the FDA office where targeted law enforcement missions involving full time rangers can be organized in a much more efficient and accurate manor.
Data collection for the CEP program in 2015 is still on-going and the teams are showing great commitment and learning new skills every mission. This program offers a great alternative livelihood to local hunters who once exploited the forest, who now work towards its full protection.

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