Liberia Observes World Elephant Day -FDA, Conservation Partners Highlight the Outstanding Roles of African Forest Elephants

Liberia, through the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) and its strategic conservation partners on Thursday August 12, 2021 joined the rest of the world to memorialize World Elephant Day with special emphasis on the outstanding importance of African forest elephants in combating climate change.

Elephants are the symbol of Africa, and in Liberia they play an important role in Liberia’s traditional culture. They stand for power and strength, and are an integral part in traditional Secret Societies. Furthermore they play a significant key role in keeping our ecosystems healthy. Given that they produce large amount of dung (natural super fertilizer) every day as well as serving as seed dispersers, they are often called the “mega-gardeners” of the forest. They also help other animals to get access to key resources like water and special nutrients that are deep in the soil which can only be reached by the powerful digging of elephants. This ecological importance of Forest Elephants for a healthy forest habitat is well known. An additional exciting fact about the role of African forest elephants has also been discovered – elephants enhance the carbon storage capacity of a forest, helping to mitigate climate change. As African Forest Elephants make their way through the rainforests and forage for food, they thin out young trees that are competing for space, water, and light. The trees that are left behind unbroken and unconsumed have a huge advantage over other trees in the forest, because they have much better access to water and light thereby making them to grow taller and larger than other trees in the rainforest.

Wherever forest elephants roam, therefore, they promote the growth of larger, taller trees, which store more carbon in their biomass than the trees that would have grown in their place. Studies have shown that without Forest Elephants the same forest would store 7% less carbon. Forest Elephants therefore offer carbon-storage services for free. Under consideration of various factors such as the carbon market price, the studies further calculated that the value of this service provided by the African Forest Elephants totals up to 1,75 million US$ per one single elephant over a life span of 60 years! So each individual counts! Liberia so far did well.

Compared to its neighbouring countries including Sierra Leone, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia has the highest number of Forest Elephants left in the region. The NGO, Elephant Research and Conservation (ELRECO) in close cooperation with the Forestry Development Authority is conducting a nationwide Forest Elephant survey. They have already completed the northern forest block, for which they estimate between 350 to 450 elephants are still present. Since the forest habitat in the southern forest block is larger than in the North, it is hoped it contains a similar, or larger, number of elephants, so the total estimate for Liberia is approximated at 1,000.

But we should not feel safe, since the Forest Elephants are also under threat in Liberia, mainly by increasing slash-and-burn agriculture, encroachment of elephant habitat, and poaching. Liberia’s Species Working Group recently convened an Emergency Elephant Committee and along with FDA, members from Fauna & Flora International, Wild Chimpanzee Foundation, ELRECO and Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection have been working to ensure elephant protection and conservation is a priority in Liberia.

This committee works alongside regional partners and last year supported efforts to protect two elephant brothers traveling from Guinea through Liberia to Cote d’Ivoire and back through Liberia to Guinea! They received full time escorts to keep them safe on their journey! Forest Elephant conservation in Liberia is of highest priority and needs the strong support and commitment of all stakeholders, including local communities, the Government, conservation NGOs and donors. Let’s save Liberia’s Forest Elephants! And let’s also keep in mind the economic value they provide for the country -– based on the calculation above the services provided by its Forest Elephants for carbon storage alone totals up to 1,75 billion US$!

EXCITING NOTE: the Two Brothers have chosen to celebrate World Elephant Day in Liberia – they crossed over our border on the very day!

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