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Most of the rare and globally-important wildlife species in Liberia are threatened with extinction. Even though deforestation and habitat loss are significant causes of wildlife decline, the immediate threats are the illegal trade and consumption of bushmeat in Liberia and the Mano River Basin region. The illegal bushmeat trade is the unlawful, commercial, and unsustainable wildlife poaching for trade or meat.
Poachers use unselective and wasteful hunting methods such as cable snares, firearms, poisoning, hunting dogs, etc., to indiscriminately kill a wide range of species. As a result, the wildlife in Liberia’s protected areas are alarmingly low, and uncontrolled illegal hunting could easily result in the loss of several iconic species. Illegal hunting is also a threat to the wildlife heritage of Liberia and tourism-based sources of employment.
Rural communities depend on hunting wildlife for subsistence, and their ability to sustainably harvest wildlife is an essential part of their lives and well-being. Nevertheless, the benefits are often unsustainable because hunting iconic species like chimpanzees and other primates, elephants, antelopes, crocodiles, marine turtles, porcupines, several species of pangolin, etc. are wasteful. Hunting utilizes only a fraction of the wildlife killed because other financial values through tourism, trophy hunting, and legal game meat production are lost. Besides, bushmeat trade in Liberia has become increasingly commercialized due to elevated demand in rural areas, urban centers, and even overseas cities.
Poaching and its associated illegal wildlife trade (IWT) are devastating populations of iconic wildlife species, such as Chimpanzees and elephants, and a host of lesser-known ones such as pangolins, some birds, reptiles, primates, medicinal plants, and timber species in Liberia. Despite years of public outreach to discourage the consumption of protected species, demand persists. Weak government capacity, the ease of travel, transport, and transaction that characterizes the global marketplace has bolstered illegal wildlife trade, facilitated its conduct, and foiled its detection.
Since the outbreak of the Ebola Virus diseases and the covid-19 pandemic, likely triggered by illegally traded wildlife, have helped propel the issue into the national, regional, and global spotlights. Currently, there are legal, economic, and social consequences to bushmeat and illegally traded wildlife in Liberia. We have listed very few of these legal and social consequences below.
The illegal possession of weapons, illegal procession of wildmeat of endangered wildlife is a crime under the Liberia Wildlife Act Section 11.2 of 2017:
Most hunters use homemade single barrel guns, poisons, wire scares, and hunting dogs to capture and kill wildlife In Liberia. Motivated by a need for income, poachers hunt nearby forests or sometimes travel by vehicles or motorcycles to protected areas all over Liberia and hunt indiscriminately. They trade live endangered wildlife or bushmeat to foreigners and traders along the road or in big cities. Bushmeat comes from protected areas all over Liberia. Poachers enter national parks and their surroundings and hunt indiscriminately. However, the activity is dangerous because most poachers and buyers risk arrest by securities officers. Sometimes meat is harvested from animals that died of disease or that were rotting in a snare. They may even kill the animals using poison. You cannot trust that poached meat is safe for consumption
‘Will Liberia Ever Learn‘ is a social marketing campaign from Volunteers for Sustainable Development in Africa working with the Forestry Development Authority of Liberia and the Critical Ecological Partnership Funds (CEPF).