Peal, of the Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia, and
Jamison Suter, of Flora and Fauna International, are spearheading a
field project on pygmy hippos.
The project aims at conserving the pygmy hippopotamus in one of its
prime habitats in south-eastern Liberia. Liberia has two remaining
intact blocks of Upper Guinean Rainforest, which are of incalculable
biological value given the poor condition and fragmentation of the
forests in most of humid West Africa, which are being rapidly degraded.
Only in Liberia are the rainforests largely in good condition, and only
there do certain keystone species requiring large intact forest blocks
stand a long-term chance of survival.
The project is the follow-on to a field assessment of the
Cestos-Senkwehn Rivershed forests conducted in 1999 with support from
WildInvest. It will define the extent of the Pygmy Hippopotamus range
in lowland south-east Liberia, mapping prime forest habitat and
degraded forests, and categorising disturbances caused by logging, road
construction, human settlement and farming. Disturbances such as
hunting and alluvial mining will be recorded too, as will local
attitudes towards protecting the area for conservation purposes. A core
habitat area is intended to be defined and recommended for full
protection as a national park or its equivalent. The project will also
design a communications strategy and carry out a public awareness
campaign featuring the pygmy hippo as a national flagship species for
conservation and lobbying key public and private sector agencies for
protection of its habitat.