The Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL), with funds from the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WABICC) project, organized a two-day field trip to the Gola Rainforest National Park (GRNP) from 11th to 12th February, 2020. The objective of the activity was to increase awareness among relevant stakeholders about the activities of the Gola WA BiCC project, while showcasing the importance of GRNP in eco-tourism development in Sierra Leone.

One of the key components of the Gola-WA BiCC project is to raise awareness among the public on the importance of wildlife conservation, community forest management and the values attached to the Gola landscape. This activity was attended by designated staff of CSSL, Gola Rainforest Company Limited by Guarantee (GRC-LG), representatives from relevant government agencies, CSSL Board of Trustees, environmental NGOs and school nature clubs (SNCs).

At Lalehun, where one of the eco-logdes in the GRNP is situated, the visiting team had a brief meeting with community stakeholders at the eco-lodge. The project’s Learning Coordinator attached to CSSL, Mr Abdulai Dauda explained to participants about the purpose of the field trip and its relevance to the team, particularly the school children. Mr Dauda emphasized that pupils are agents of change and therefore, should be used as ambassadors to effect the desired change in the environment. Madam Hawa Tucker, Eastern Region Representative, CSSL Board of Trustees, also encouraged the pupils to be very attentive and learn new things relating to the environment. She continued that, whatever information generated from the trip should be cascaded to others in society. Madam Tucker also expressed her deepest appreciation to the entire staff of both CSSL and GRC-LG for the effort employed in making sure that the National Park is protected.

Mr Ekundayoh Nicole, Southern Region Representative, CSSL Board of Trustees, reiterated the commitment of the organization in improving conservation and protection of wildlife in Sierra Leone. He also placed premium on transforming the pupils into environmental conservation agents to enable them influence their relatives and friends”.

Rachael N. Williams, a pupil of the St. Joseph Secondary School, Freetown said, “… I want to encourage all to treat the issue of conservation with all level of seriousness. I would like CSSL and GRC-LG to continue using school nature clubs in most of the activities they do, so that we the pupils will become more awfait with conservation issues”.

The Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, National Protected Area Authority, Mr Samuel Ibrahim Kobba, stated that there are 17 protected areas in the country among which 15 are core protected including the GRNP. But as a government, they cannot be everywhere at the same time to protect the reserves. In light of that, he continued, “we always partner and work with other institutions to complement the little efforts applied by the government to maximize the required protection needed for the reserves, and the WA BiCC project is one of such endeavours”.

The Environmental Education Officer of CSSL, Madam Mariama Kargbo, took participants through the do’s and don’t’s of forest walk, and encouraged all to strictly follow the registered guides. They were also orientated on the use of bird watching equipment by Mr. Dauda.

Participants were later provided with binoculars and led into the forest to have a feel of that area of the Park, while also guided to observe key plant and animal species including birds. At the end of the hike, participants outlined various observations made including a specific animal track that was later identified as a track of a Maxwell Duiker. Bird species like the Green Pigeon, Palm-nut Vulture, Greentail Bristlebill, Yellow Cast Wattle Hornbill among others were also sighted.