The global animal protection charity Humane Society International (HSI) and partners in Liberia have celebrated World Chimpanzee Day in Monrovia, to honor chimpanzees and raise awareness about protecting these endangered animals worldwide.
In collaboration with the Forestry Development Authority and other local partners, HSI joined a mobile awareness and outreach campaign on July 14th, participating in an educational segment hosted on Truth FM 96.1 in Paynesville.
The goals of World Chimpanzee Day are to celebrate the closest living relatives in the animal kingdom, to raise awareness about the conservation threats they face in the wild, and to promote their proper care in captivity. This year’s messaging focused on wildlife laws in Liberia, and the link between COVID-19 and bushmeat.
HSI has worked to protect chimpanzees in Liberia since 2015 through its sanctuary project, Second Chance Chimpanzee Refuge Liberia. Caregivers at the sanctuary, all of them Liberians, provide care 365 days a year to more than 60 chimpanzees formerly used in invasive biomedical research. HSI originally stepped in to take over direct care of the chimpanzees after learning they had been abandoned on the Marshall Islands without food or fresh water.
Since then, the organization has also partnered with numerous stakeholders in Liberia, including the National Public Health Institute of Liberia, Forestry Development Authority, Ministry of Agriculture, and others to promote care, welfare, and conservation of wild and companion animals in Liberia.
World Chimpanzee Day on July 14th marks the 60th anniversary of the day world-renowned primatologist and UN Ambassador of Peace, Dr. Jane Goodall, first arrived in Gombe National Park, Tanzania to begin her groundbreaking research into wild chimpanzee behavior.
Dr. Goodall’s work transformed the way the world understands chimpanzees and other animals, and she remains an influential advocate for chimpanzee conservation throughout Africa.
With the entire world reeling from the threat of COVID-19, World Chimpanzee Day provided Liberian advocates an opportunity to highlight the point that inappropriate interactions with animals are the root causes of pandemics.
Poaching, consumption of bushmeat, and the selling of infant chimpanzees as pets are all major threats to chimpanzees, seriously endangered throughout their home ranges in Africa. Not only do these activities compromise the welfare of the animals and exacerbate the decline in their numbers in the wild, it also poses serious health risks to humans.
Close, extended contact with wild animals, especially in wildlife markets, greatly increases the risk of disease transmission from animals to humans. There is a strong consensus that COVID-19 originated from a wildlife market in China – a stark reminder that the next pandemic is always a looming risk where there is trade in wildlife.
The Humane Society International team in Liberia works with 15 schools, 20 communities, and three police stations, where officers receive training on wildlife protection laws in Liberia.
The team also conducts outreach to six local markets and four local restaurants where bushmeat is prepared and sold. Furthermore, the team has a formal agreement in place with the Forestry Development Authority of Liberia to combat the illegal trades in bushmeat and living wildlife in Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu, and Nimba counties, respectively, all considered hotspots for these trades, particularly for the illegal consumption and trafficking of chimpanzees.
Liberia holds great potential for the preservation of chimpanzees in West Africa due to its large intact forests; however, increased hunting and live trafficking pose significant threats to their long-term survival. Humane Society International is proud to work with partners in Liberia to educate the public on the threats that wild chimpanzee’s face and the importance of protecting and preserving this unique and treasured species.