The Presidents of Sierra Leone and Liberia today met in the Gola Forest, Sierra Leone, to announce the establishment of a new Trans-boundary Peace Park, to protect one of the largest remaining blocks of intact forest in the Upper Guinea Area of West Africa.
At today’s meeting H.E. President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone said:"The long-term benefits of the conservation of the Gola Forests far outweigh the short-term benefits of extraction and destruction. As I have said since I was elected in 2007, the Gola Forests will become a National Park in Sierra Leone and mining will not be permitted".
H.E. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia said: “This launch of the Sierra Leone-Liberia Trans-boundary Peace Park Project will serve as a symbol of our renewed commitment to peace, stability and biodiversity conservation in this region."
The Peace Park unites the Gola Forest Reserve in Sierra Leone (75,000 ha) and the Lofa and Foya Forest Reserves in Liberia (80,000 ha and 100,000 ha respectively), with additional forest to provide corridors for the movement of wildlife between them.
The local communities in Sierra Leone, through their traditional chiefs and Members of Parliament, have both expressed their support for the conservation of the Gola Forest and its designation as a national park.
Dr Hazell Shokellu Thompson, BirdLife’s Regional Director for Africa, who has worked for more than 20 years on the protection of Gola Forest said: “The establishment of the Trans-boundary Peace Park is a tribute to the success of the governments of both countries in putting their recent history of civil war behind them. I wish to congratulate both Presidents for this far-sighted initiative. In the run up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen later this year, they have shown their wholehearted commitment to taking the measures needed to reduce the threats of climate change and increase collaboration in the conservation of their Nation’s natural resources.”