Pygmy Hippo Foundation
In July 2011 we founded the Pygmy Hippo Foundation, a UK registered charity, dedicated to improving conservation in Liberia. Through the re-development of the Sapo National Park, enabling broader conservation initiatives in the surrounding forest areas and facilitating education programmes, the Pygmy Hippo Foundation aims to promote the conservation, preservation and protection of endangered species such as the pygmy hippo in their natural environment.
The Zoological Society of London estimates that there are less than 2,000 pygmy hippos remaining in the wild. The majority of these are believed to be located in southeast Liberia’s Sapo National Park. Focusing on this flagship species, the Pygmy Hippo Foundation intends to strengthen the capacity and efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the Forestry Development Authority (“FDA”) not only in park operations, but also in raising the status of protected flora and fauna in Liberia on community, national and international levels. Central to our endeavour is partnering with government bodies as well as both local and international NGOs, and in this regard the last 12 months have seen some exciting developments.
Progress In Our First Year
This year we have made progress in identifying and assessing the current status of the management of the park’s area, and the demographics and ecosystem of the region. Our stakeholder consultations have given us a much more informed view of the shape of the future for the Foundation. Earlier this year we commissioned an international expert to undertake a scoping study of the social and environmental factors in the area in which the hippo is found. This has helped to contextualise the problem more precisely and to highlight the potential opportunities and challenges that may exist.
Some Key Findings of the Scoping Study (Jan 2012)
- Very little is known about the pygmy hippo due to its nocturnal and reclusive nature, and no wide-scale survey has been undertaken
- The main threats to the pygmy hippo are hunting (both commercial and traditional) and habitat loss
- Conserving the forest habitat of the pygmy hippo will have major benefits for biodiversity and ecosystem services
- Around 85% of Liberia’s forest is outside of existing and proposed protected areas. Working on strengthening and expanding the protected area network, alleviating poverty (especially in rural areas) and raising awareness at all levels is vital for conservation in Liberia
In August 2012 we teamed with the Leadership for Conservation in Africa (“LCA”) to investigate concept strategies for the Foundation with key stakeholders in Liberia. Government agencies, world- renowned NGOs and local NGOs with extensive experience in the Liberian conservation sector all gathered for a series of meetings which culminated in a workshop in Monrovia to decide how best we can move the Foundation forward. Some suggestions included:
- Employment and training of existing ‘traditional’ foresters
- Helping to fund research activities in the area by other NGOs
- Running community education programmes
- Aiding the efforts of NGO and governmental conservation groups to formalise current plans for other proposed protected areas
The overriding concept discussed was that of a Public Private Partnership (PPP) for the management of the Sapo National Park. The partnership, supported by the LeA, would be between the PHF and the Government of Liberia. Although still in conceptual stages, it represents a very exciting opportunity. The LeA has considerable experience in national park rehabilitation and management of protected areas through their other projects in Sub-Saharan Africa. Together, the LeA and PHF are in the process of producing a full business plan for the Foundation’s activities based on the concept of a PPP. Later this year the PHF is on course to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the government to expressly codify the scope and nature of this agreement.
In this section
Supporting the enforcement of the laws of Sapo National Park
Sponsoring direct research into pygmy hippo conservation by world leaders
Inspiring local communities to reclaim possession of and pride in the significance of their indigenous forest environment
Backing conservation initiatives in the buffer zone around Sapo National Park through incorporating local communities
Persuading the government and governmental bodies of the need to protect the environment
Removing all illegal mining activities within Sapo National Park
Developing effective anti-poaching patrols
Sponsoring and training of park rangers
Providing equipment and facilities to support Sapo National Park
Exploring future capacity for low impact eco-tourism centered on Sapo National Park