LOCATION: Liberia, West Africa
GOAL: To assess the current status and improve knowledge and understanding of the forest elephant population in Liberia
ACTIONS: Conducting surveys to estimate forest elephant population status; identifying key elephant areas; training forest development authority and Liberian students in survey methods; analysing genetics of elephant population; compiling updated Elephant Status Report; increasing awareness of elephant conservation in local communities; conducting socio-economic interviews with local communities.
The forest elephant, found in Central and West Africa, is highly threatened. Forest elephants play a significant ecological role in the maintenance of forest habitats and biodiversity protection by opening up the understory, slowing down the closure of canopy gaps by bending trees, carrying seeds over long distances to create a patchwork of forest types and influencing the structure of plant and animal communities.
Very little is known about forest elephants in comparison to their savannah counterparts and there are no reliable population estimates for Liberia, where half of the remaining Guinean Forests of West Africa hotspot is located. Liberia is a top priority country in West Africa for elephant conservation. Home to two of the three remaining large blocks of the Upper Guinea Forest, Liberia offers one of the best chances of survival for the forest elephant in West Africa. However, since efforts started in the 1980s, the development of conservation action in Liberia has suffered many setbacks, mainly due to more than a decade of civil war, but also more recently by the biggest Ebola outbreak to date. ELRECO is a nature conservation NGO, founded and registered in 2017 in Germany by two committed conservationists Dr. Tina Vogt and Bernhard Forster. Born Free is supporting a countrywide survey of forest elephants in Liberia in 2019-2020.