Successful conservation requires a lot of hard work and often a healthy dose of improvisation. Just ask the team from the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science
(CABS) at CI that last March faced the challenging prospect of conducting aerial surveys of Liberia's
vast rainforests. After decades of civil unrest, the country faced shortages of gas and other supplies that made operating inside the country difficult, if not impossible.
"We ended up basing our flight operations in neighboring Côte d'Ivoire because there was a state of emergency in Liberia and no aviation fuel," explains CABS Regional Analysis Project Manager Daniel Juhn.
Located in the Guinean Forests of West Africa hotspot
, Liberia's rainforests are roughly 40 percent intact. They shelter some of the world's most endangered species
, including the pygmy hippo, zebra duiker and forest elephant.
CI, in partnership
with Flora and Fauna International and Liberian wildlife officials, is combining overflight images with satellite data to produce a comprehensive vegetation map of the region--the first in 20 years--and make conservation recommendations to the Liberian government. The recommendations will form the basis of a CI strategy to strengthen and expand current protected areas in Liberia and establish a conservation corridor stretching from southwestern Côte d'Ivoire into Liberia.
The aerial survey team came away with more than 2,000 photos, images both remarkable and unsettling. They showed a vast rainforest largely intact but with logging
roads and small-scale farming creeping into the landscape. "This is what many other West African countries looked like 30 years ago," explains West Africa Technical Director Dirck Byler. "If we act now, we can preserve what is probably the most important rain forest in the region."