Phase Two Overview
Location: Ziama Massif Biosphere Reserve
Forest elephant population: Census required
Number of Rangers: 30
Equipment required: Boots; socks; backpacks; and flashlights
This project focuses on the Ziama Massif forest in Guinea – on the border of Liberia – which contains the last remaining population of forest elephants in Guinea and is therefore considered a priority site for forest elephants in West Africa.
The rate of decline of forest elephants is devastating: over 60% of all forest elephants were lost in less than a decade between 2002 to 2011 and their numbers continue to plummet to this day. The most recent study – the results of which were released in February 2017 – show that Minkébé National Park in Gabon was emptied of 80% of its forest elephants in a single decade (2004-2014), a loss of some 25,000 elephants, despite having been thought a remote haven for these animals.
Only approximately 200 forest elephants remain in the Ziama forest and they are ecologically isolated from other forest elephant populations. In addition, only 30 game rangers have been identified as capable of protecting the forest elephants in the region. These rangers are underfunded and insufficiently equipped to be able to carry out their duties properly and safely.
We cannot expect game rangers and eco-guards to fulfill their vital role to the best of their ability, and safely, without proper equipment.
This project is necessary to enable game rangers in the region to effectively protect the crucial population of forest elephants in the Ziama forest.
The Ziama Forest is a remote and vital tropical forest ecosystem in the mountainous highlands of south-eastern Guinea and extends across the border to Liberia. Renowned for its incredibly high levels of biodiversity, boasting more than 1,300 species of plants and more than 500 animal species, the Ziama Forest ecosystem boasts pristine and dense primary and secondary mountain forest. Due to this richness of the ecosystem it is home to a great number of Africa’s threatened mammal species, including chimpanzees and the only viable forest elephant population in Guinea – a crucial population of approximately 200 forest elephants remaining.
Guinea is the source of 22 West African rivers, including the Niger, Gambia, and Senegal Rivers. Protecting the forests that act as watersheds for these rivers is crucial for the health of wildlife and humans alike.
The south of Guinea contains important remnants of the Upper Guinean forest that used to cover the entire region of West Africa. The biodiversity under the lush forest canopy is stunning – elephants, chimpanzees and many more endangered species, including 22 species protected by CITES, all rely on this unique habitat.
The Ziama Forest, and the wildlife which benefits from and sustains this important ecosystem, is under threat. Agriculture has begun to encroach upon the Ziama Forest Biosphere, replacing pristine ecologically-rich forest landscapes with farmland. Habitat destruction in the form of forest clearing for agricultural development timber extraction, together with the ever-present poaching threat that accompanies these activities, threatens the survival of both the forest and the elephants which call it home.
The conservation challenges we face to save the remaining population of forest elephants in the reserve are significant, in a place where environmental protection takes a very distant second place to natural resource extraction. However, there is great optimism to be had for Ziama’s elephants if all effort possible is now put into their protection.