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First Lady represents Sierra Leone at UK Wildlife Trade event

First Lady represents Sierra Leone at UK Wildlife Trade event

The First Lady has returned from the UK after showcasing Sierra Leone on the global stage while halting illegal smuggling road through the Gola Rainforest National Park.  (Photo: Sierra Leone’s First Lady Fatima Bio at the IWT Conference in London)

The Gola Rainforest National Park congratulates the First Lady of Sierra Leone for the historical achievements accomplished at the Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) Conference in London (11th-12th October 2018) and for the immediate implementation of international treaties by stopping an illegal smuggling and illegal mining road cleared through the Gola Rainforest NP towards Liberia.

During the International IWT conference held in London in front of World Leaders and Heads of State, the First Lady Fatima Bio led the SL delegation towards embracing the global fight against illegal wildlife trade.

In this historic venue, SL – represented for the first time on the transnational stage – committed to all the major action points identified by the international community necessary for a structured and organized fight against this serious global and national threat. Specifically, SL committed actions towards:

Eradicating the national market for illegal wildlife products while ensuring effective legal frameworks, deterrents and accountability.

Strengthening law enforcement along the national border while focusing resources towards sustainable livelihoods and economic development.

It did not take Her Excellency and the Government Team, led by Mr. Joseph J. Ndanema, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, long to put these commitments into action when On October 19th, they sharply put a stop to an illegal road through the Gola Rainforest National Park towards the SL southern border with Liberia.

Illegal road clearing through Gola Rainforest National Park

This road clearing breaches national laws since it would have created an unofficial and unguarded smuggling rout to Liberia and because it was conducted within a National Park proclaimed in 2010, and protected by the Wildlife Conservation Act, the Forestry Act and the National Protected Area Authority and Conservation Trust Fund Act.

The illegal road clearing was allegedly financed by Idrissa Mansaray (Aka Bomba), a Sierra Leonean with a mining background, and supported by local politicians. The road was constructed based on community development claims which have proven false since the road through the National Park would have allowed access to village of only 7-10 houses on the border with Liberia. SLP investigations are currently ongoing.

AIG Police meeting with a unit of Gola Rangers at the Gola Rainforest National Park Headquarters in Kenema

The British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone Mr. Guy Warrington at the Environment Day celebration held in Freetown on October 22nd praised the Government and the Minister of Agriculture for the immediate actions taken to defend this valuable national asset. He underlined how Sierra Leone has the chance to be the catalyst for sound environmental practices in West Africa. He hoped that government would make an example of the people who opened the road through the National Park and confiscate their road building equipment. There was no economic or developmental justification for the road beyond illegal mining and smuggling.

Illegal mining and smuggling interests within the Gola Rainforest National Park have always been present and Park Management is thankful to His Excellency the President, to the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, the National Protected Area Authority, SLP and RSLAF who visited the road construction site, for the prompt intervention and for halting this attack to national sovereignty across the heart of one of the most successful conservation and development initiatives in West Africa.

British High Commission, 6 Spur Road, Freetown, Sierra Leone

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