Country of the Month

December 20201
Edward Appleton— Liberia
We are thrilled to introduce our final Country of the Month feature for 2021––Edward Appleton from Liberia! Edward is an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) alumni who participated in a virtual project earlier this year titled “Combatting Wildlife Trafficking.”
 
Hosted online during August of 2021, this virtual IVLP project explored topics related to deterring poaching and trafficking through wildlife protection policies, law enforcement, and criminal prosecution. In addition, it explored approaches of citizens, NGOs, and private organizations that promote and support wildlife protection, and discussed international collaboration at the federal and state levels that combat wildlife poaching and strengthen global cooperation against wildlife trafficking. During their program, Edward, and his cohort of 15 other participants from across Africa, virtually traveled to Washington, DC, Charleston, South Carolina, Helena, Montana, and Seattle, Washington.
 
Edward is a Manager for the Wildlife Confiscation and Anti-Smuggling Unit in the Liberian Forestry Development Authority. He is also the Assistant Coordinator for the Wildlife Crime Taskforce, which is a multi-agency task force, involving different Liberian law enforcement and environmental agencies. In these important roles, he is tasked with investigating and responding to wildlife crime, confiscating wildlife and wildlife products, and arresting perpetrators. Furthermore, he manages Liberia’s national wildlife crime database. When asked why he chose to pursue this important work, Edward answered, “Wildlife is in crisis in my home country of Liberia and the number of species that are at threat is at an all-time high. The killing of wildlife for bushmeat has been a long-time tradition for some who think it is the best source for nutrients in my country.” He also emphasized the importance of his work, noting that “the conservation of endangered species is not only important for our natural world, but it is also important for humans. A well-balanced ecosystem and biodiversity give us clean air, a healthy water system to support marine and other aquatic life, and land for agricultural production.”
 
Edward shared with us some of the highlights of his IVLP experience. Overall, he said that “what I learned during my IVLP course has brought new ideas and has made my work more efficient.” He especially enjoyed meeting with Working Dogs for Conservation, a Montana-based NGO, and noted that “learning how dogs are used for conservation purposes was so fascinating.” He also expressed that he enjoyed a home hospitality session in Charleston, South Carolina, where he learned a lot about the diversity of American culture. He said that learning about the Gullah language (a creole language spoken by the Gullah people, an African American population living in the Southeast U.S.) and how it can be traced back to West Africa, was particularly interesting. Additionally, Edward has kept in touch with several other members of his IVLP cohort and even recently collaborated with one of them in an exchange training session.
 
We asked Edward to also share more information about his home country of Liberia. He said, “Liberia lies on the western “bulge” of Africa. About half the country is covered by a primary tropical rain forest containing valuable hardwood. A monsoon climate of alternating wet and dry seasons characterizes the weather. Plateaus and mountain ranges in the northern region are rich in iron ore, gold, and diamonds. The Atlantic coastline of 353 miles (568 kilometers) has no natural deep-water harbors and is pounded by heavy surf.” He also highlighted Liberia’s unique ties to America: “The American Colonization Society founded Liberia in 1821 as a place for free African American slaves to migrate to. More than 10,000 people made the journey across the Atlantic, aided by the Society, until Liberia declared independence in 1847. Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a freed slave from Virginia, became the first Liberian president. The capital, Monrovia, was named for the United States president James Monroe and is situated near the original landing site of the American settlers.” Edward added, “The area was known as the Grain Coast, in reference to the malagueta pepper, which was the primary export.”
 
In addition, Edward was thrilled to share even more about Liberia’s natural environment! “Liberia currently has five protected areas—three national parks, one nature reserve, and one sustainable multiple-use reserve—with eleven more areas that are pending protection. Edward added that “Sapo National Park is the country’s oldest and, so far, largest protected area, and is home to 125 types of mammals and 590 types of birds. Among them are a number of threatened species, such as the pygmy hippopotamus, forest elephants, West African chimpanzees, the African golden cat, three species of crocodiles, leopards, seven species of monkeys, and three species of pangolins (one of the weirdest looking animals you are likely to see)!” He also briefly discussed the new and “beautifully constructed Sapo Ecolodge, located at the top view of the Sinoe River, which gives tourists an excellent view of nature.”
 
In closing, Edward left us with this quote about the legacy of his important work:
 
“I am a father of two girls who believes in securing a planet for the next generation. My years of combatting wildlife crime have changed my life in a positive way, and I consider myself helping to conserve our fauna and flora from extinction and saving our planet from climate change.”
 
Thank you, Edward, for sharing your passion for your important work against wildlife tracking and your love for your home country of Liberia!
 
And, as always, we would like to extend a BIG thank you to our local implementing partners at the Charleston Council for International Visitors, World Affairs Council – Seattle, and WorldMontana who assisted in organizing Edward’s program. Wishing everyone and safe and healthy new year! We will see you all again in 2022!