By Theresa Vamboi
Refresher training for 20 rangers of the National Protected Area Authority (NPPA), soldiers of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, the Sierra Leone Police and community scouts to enforce wildlife laws in the National Parks of Sierra Leone had been successfully coordinated by the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary (TCS) and partners.
The 20 rangers passed out on Thursday 12th December 2019 at an impressive ceremony at the TCS Forest Reserve in the Western Area Peninsula National Park, Regent in Freetown.
TCS is committed to conducting capacity-building to enhance the NPAA rangers and TCS eco-guards safeguarding the Loma Mountains National Park as part of the USFWS funding-project Loma Mountains National Conservation Project.
The training took place at the TCS, Regent outside Freetown with a series of modules specifically designed to respond to the urgent need to protect wildlife in the country and focused on medical training/first aid, bush camp, observation post, arrest and restrain, armed and unarmed combats, drills, night vision goggles, Global Positioning System (GPS), compass and maps, preparation of patrol reports, basic communications and reporting, navigation, field craft, bush craft and basic patrol tactics.
The training marks the extension of the Tacugama Community Outreach Program (TCOP) activities towards a holistic approach to conservation in Sierra Leone through livelihood, education, research and wildlife law enforcement.
Moreover, the training is an approach to protect the largest populations of the Western Chimpanzees in Sierra Leone in order to further support the NPPA’s mission to ensure the protection of natural eco-systems and threatened biodiversity in Sierra Leone.
The 12-day training was conducted between 1st and 12th December 2019 by the TCS Community Outreach Program, the International Security Advisory Team (ISAT), the Sierra Leone Police and NPAA to assess the skills and capacities of NPAA rangers to equip them with the basic skills and knowledge to safely and efficiently carry out patrols in the Loma Mountains National Park.
The training is also aimed at harmonizing the expertise of the NPAA rangers among the three National Parks (Loma Mountains, Western Area Peninsula and Gola Rainforest National Parks), to consolidate the involvement of law enforcement units and armed forces in the national efforts to protect wildlife as well as tackle poaching and trafficking, assess a model of mixed patrols in Sierra Leone including NPAA rangers, community scouts, paramilitary police officers and soldiers.
Furthermore, the training is to sensitize and engage local communities and build a local constituency for conservation around national parks as well as identify the personal qualities of the participants and suitable attributes required to carry out their wildlife protection activities with and around protected areas and leave each successful participant in a state of irreversible momentum and progression.
The training program was tailored and run by law enforcement and anti-poaching experts from Mellivora Systems for 20 participants: 10 NPAA rangers from three different national parks: Loma Mountains, Western Area Peninsula and Gola Rainforest National Parks respectively, 2 soldiers from the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, 1 police officer, 5 community scouts from Loma and 2 TCS outreach team members thus involving all the prominent conservation organizations, law enforcement units and the Armed Forces of the Republic of Sierra Leone.
In his statement at the passing out ceremony, the Founder and Director of TCS, Mr. Bala Amarasekaran asserted that this is a proud moment for them, reiterated the need to keep pressing on, that the training is a step in the right direction, commended the exemplary collaboration between the various stakeholders and underlined that no one/institution can do it alone.
He continued that the resources put into the training have been spent the right way, that TCS is protecting the water catchment area in the Western Area in addition to conserving and protecting animals and plants.
Statements were also made by Mr. Baba Turay of the NPAA who enlightened that the Authority was established by an Act of Parliament in 2012 to protect the country’s natural resources in all the 15 protected areas as well as enforce conservation laws but lamented that they are constraint by inadequate resources and capacity underscoring that conservation issues are new in Sierra Leone as they were not very serious, that 70% of the country was covered with forest that has reduced to 10% pointing out that conservation issues are increasing daily.
He also assured that the NPAA would assist in enforcing conservation and wildlife laws and underscored the importance of the training that need not be overemphasized.
Colonel Martin Charles of ISAT said one of their key interests in Sierra Leone is conservation and border security, reaffirmed the need to capacitate the rangers to enforce wildlife and conservation laws and commended the instructors for a job well done.
He further disclosed that they are working on a two-year project for Guinea, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone to develop legislation to support NPAA to train between 80-100 rangers to fight those he described as enemies who steal the resources and threaten the environment in the different countries.
Presentation of certificates to the rangers climaxed the event.