Between November 2013 and June 2014, Fauna & Flora International undertook three, short biodiversity baselines surveys In Wonegizi Proposed Protected Area (PPA), in north-western Liberia, using a mixture of surveys techniques. FFI have been working with local NGO Skills and Agriculture Development Services (SADS) and the Forest Development Authority (FDA) on developing a combined protected area gazettement and REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation) project, for which baselines surveys and bio-monitoring are (and will be) essential.
Camera-traps were deployed during all three surveys and the results were extremely encouraging. Images (as well as tracks, sign and direct observations) were recorded/captured for a wide range of species, including chimpanzees, pygmy hippos and forest elephants. Using advice from local hunters, some of the camera-traps were placed at known ‘elephant routes’ and set to capture video. This ‘elephant survey’ only ran for 6 days but captured 8 events (elephant videos), in two locations, showing at least three individuals.
The photos/videos from Wonegizi are thought to be the first to capture elephants outside of an actively protected area in Liberia, and area certainly the first still and moving images from Wonegizi itself. These records confirm that Wonegizi PPA is a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) and represents High Conservation Value (HCV) forest, and should be prioritised for gazettement and active management. Moreover, the records add significant evidence as to the value of Wonegizi as a critical part of the wider, transboundary forest landscape that extents over the international border, with Guinea, into Ziama Biosphere Reserve; with a high possibility that elephants move freely between these forest blocks, and possibly onwards, into other areas within Liberia.