New Liberian Law Empowers GRASP and UN Partners to Save Chimpanzee
A critically endangered chimpanzee being offered for sale by illegal traders benefitted from Liberia’s tough new wildlife protection legislation this week when she was seized by national authorities and airlifted by United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) to a permanent sanctuary near the capital of Monrovia.
The Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) organized the seizure, working with Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority (FDA), UNMIL and the Liberian Chimpanzee Rescue (LCR) programme to coordinate the operation that took place in the southeastern city of Zwedru.
Two illegal traders were taken into custody, the first arrests in Liberia for unlawful possession of great apes.
The confiscation of the chimpanzee, nicknamed “Gloria,” can be attributed to Liberia’s new wildlife law, which aims to better protect the country’s flora and fauna. Gloria was seized by local FDA officers and transported by an UNMIL aircraft that flew her 350 miles to the national capital.
FDA representative and GRASP focal point Theophilus Freeman called the seizure and transfer “a milestone for conservation in Liberia.”
“GRASP is extremely pleased and proud to support our partners in Liberia in upholding the laws designed to protect wildlife,” said GRASP coordinator Doug Cress. “Too many laws are written but never enforced. GRASP is grateful to the Government of Liberia and our United Nations partners at UNMIL for helping reverse that trend.”
GRASP has worked with UN peacekeepers to relocate seized great apes in Central Africa for the past six years. This rescue in Liberia was the first time United Nations peacekeepers have been engaged in relocating seized great apes in West Africa.
UNMIL was established by the United Nations in 2003 to implement a peace agreement that ended a 14-year civil war that ravaged Liberia.
“We are very happy to be part of this rescue effort and to help implement Liberia’s new wildlife protection law,” said Farid Zarif, special representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNMIL. “While highlighting the importance of protecting wildlife, this new legislation also sets a worthy example for other countries in the region.”
Gloria, who had been cared for by the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation until her transfer could be arranged, was relocated to the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research (LIBR) in Charlesville, on the outskirts of Monrovia. Gloria joins six other chimpanzees currently residing at LIBR, a former research station that has since been converted into an ad-hoc sanctuary.
“We are thrilled with this groundbreaking partnership and incredibly grateful to the many stakeholders working so hard to make this transfer a reality,” said LCR director Jenny Desmond. “Rescuing this individual chimpanzee is extremely important to us from an animal welfare perspective. However, the true significance of this collaboration is its potential to serve as a turning point in the protection and conservation of all chimpanzees in Liberia.”
LCR works closely with the FDA to care for confiscated chimpanzee orphans in Liberia, and is supported by a coalition led by the Humane Society of the United States. For more information, visit https://web.facebook.com/abandonedchimps/
GRASP is a unique alliance comprised of 105 partner nations, research institutions, United Nations agencies, conservation organizations, and private companies working to protect great apes and their habitat in Africa and Asia. For more information, please contact [email protected] or visit www.un-grasp.org.