Alessandro Albani (Technical Advisor), Lahai Keifala (Superintendent), Solomon M. Tommy (Senior Research Technician) and Mohammed L. Fofana (Research Technicians) 


Gola Rainforest National Park, Basel Zoo

The project successfully established a Community Youth Conservation Volunteer program in 2016, this was designed to specifically engage unemployed youth in key communities in the protection of pygmy hippos in the GRNP region. The youth are trained by GRNP research technicians in survey techniques and data collection as well as conducting environmental education activities in local schools. The overall aim of the pygmy hippo Community Youth Conservation Volunteer Programme is to contribute to the effective long-term protection of pygmy hippos in the Gola region with the active involvement and support of local communities. With the help of the volunteers we have been able to gain additional knowledge about the distribution of pygmy hippos outside the protected national park, identify key areas/habitats for this species and collect dung samples for genetic analysis. The project also provides direct educational and financial benefits for unemployed and interested youth from the forest edge communities and increases awareness at the school and community level. The project is currently ongoing and in 2017 a new cohort of volunteers was selected and trained.

Progress in 2020

In 2018/2020, a new cohort of volunteers from the Gola FECs was selected and trained by the GRC-LG research technicians, and with their help we have been able to deploy a series of camera traps that take images and video footages along key sites. This new camera trapping activity helped to confirm the presence of pygmy hippos in these areas for the first time, and to inform best practices to mitigate human-hippo conflict. At the same time, a theatre group from Kenema (Eastern Entertainers) was hired to support the implementation of a theatre component during the project and to showcase two theatrical drama shows focused on pygmy hippo conservation. These community theatre groups, together with our active involvement in community school activities and sensitization events, helped to strengthen the link between the communities and the project, which is essential to reduce illegal activities that may be detrimental to wildlife. Through co-financing schemes, we are also in the process of establishing pygmy hippo schools in key sites adjacent to GRNP, and we will tentatively continue the fruitful collaboration with CYCVs to build a next generation of youths with a vested interest in pygmy hippo conservation.

See the new pictures from Camer Traps