Two Liberian Conservation Heroes Win Prestigious African Ranger Award

Two Liberian Conservation Heroes Win Prestigious African Ranger Award
June 13, 2018 11:46 am Blog

In current years, many of Africa’s most iconic wildlife species have been in constant decline due to poaching, habitat loss, and the illegal wildlife trade. Rangers operate in extreme conditions, and in their efforts to protect the natural heritage face incredible risks and threats. Their endeavors should be recognized and achievements be celebrated.

The pressures and risks of conservation work in Africa are well known.  However, these increase exponentially when, as in Liberia, decades of civil strife and its wide-ranging fallout make working in remote or inaccessible areas an enduring challenge. Working as a National Park staff member is one of those jobs where the obstacles are often insurmountable. Illegal activities such as hunting, mining and logging, among others, make the forest ranger’s job particularly fraught with danger. Despite this, every day intrepid park rangers risk their lives to conserve these last remaining forest environments and ecosystems, including the rare and endangered species that call these forests home, as well as the precious water, clean air, and additional values that are only appreciated once a tropical forest is gone. Some of these courageous men and women are the unsung heroes of conservation.

To recognize the tireless work of Park Rangers, on July 21, 2017, Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, the third biggest eCommerce company in the world, and co-chair of Paradise International Foundation, announced in Kigali that a 10-year award program would be set up to support 500 wildlife rangers in Africa. The Foundation is a nonprofit organization and its charitable focus has been on the protection of unique and vulnerable lands and waters around the world. Its priorities are protected areas, nature products, and nature education. Attracting its attention to Liberia’s rainforests which is considered as one of the world global hotspots with its unique wildlife, such as the endemic and endangered pygmy hippoptamus, Nimba toad, Nimba flycatcher, etc. is indeed a noteworthy accomplishment for Liberia.

The Paradise Ranger Award is presented annually, to a maximum of 50 African rangers who have been working in a defined conservation area to protect African wildlife. The award, a grant of $3,000, is to recognize and reward the difficult, yet also rewarding work, undertaken daily by park rangers across the continent.

This year, Blamah Goll, former Chief Park Warden (CPW) for Sapo National Park at Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority (FDA) is one of the recipients of this prestigious award. He is one of two Liberians, along with his late colleague Friday Pyne, and six other West Africans to receive the award.


Mr. Blamah Goll
Mr. Blamah Goll

Mr. Goll commenced work as a Wildlife Officer in Liberia’s Sapo National Park in 2000 during that country’s civil crisis. This was after all the park rangers had been evacuated to Monrovia, the capital city, due to increased threats and insecurity in the park. When the park was reopened, very few rangers returned due to the volatile status of the area. However, Blamah who was a young ranger at the time and, under the supervision of the Chief Park Warden, carried out awareness raising in communities close to the park, established the first line transects in the park after the civil crisis, and initiated the first bio-monitoring program with the Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia (SCNL) through the Darwin Project Initiative and other Protected Area staff, mainly locally hired and trained hunters funded by the Darwin Initiative and many of whom continue working in these critical roles today. Blamah was a visionary who promoted local people’s participation in park protection and management, and supported NGOs introducing programs aimed at promoting sustainable forest use and more stable livelihoods. He also participated in the restoration of ecological monitoring programs and anti-poaching patrols, although progress was limited due to the increasing presence of illegal hunters and miners. Regardless of these challenges, Ranger Goll gained the respect of local community people as well as the park management and by 2004, he was promoted to Chief Park Warden, a post he held between 2004 and 2009.  Also notably, he contributed to sensitive negotiations and led the first, peaceful evacuation of illegal miners in 2005.

 Blamah’s commitment and burning passion for the protection of biodiversity and the forest estate of his country remains outstanding. His five-year tenure as head of the Sapo National Park resonates to this day. This is evident from the recent request by communities for his return as the CPW during community consultations after a crisis that had led to the death of a park ranger. They believed he restored order to the park after the civil crisis during his prior time as Warden, at the peak of illegal activities in the park, therefore proving to be the best person to broker peace in the park between park management and communities in times of crisis. Though he did not return to that role, he played a major role in a multi-stakeholder conference organized to reconcile grievances and promote collaborative management in and around Sapo.

In November 2017, he was appointed to the post of Technical Conservation Manager at the FDA overseeing all conservation and protected area management activities across the country, the most senior conservation-related position that can be attained as a FDA technical staff member. Mr. Goll is WA BiCC’s Focal Person at the FDA, coordinating various activities between WA BiCC and FDA management, partners, and grantees.

Mary Molokwu, Liberia Country Director for Fauna and Flora International, whose recommendation of Blamah Goll led to him receiving the African Ranger Award said, “I once asked Blamah to tell me the secret to his success. He listed a number of working principles which he made sure to abide by during his time as Chief Park Warden of the Sapo National Park, but emphasized that discipline and fairness were the most important. He was strict about enforcing the law, and communities and park staff respected him for that. At the same time, he was impartial, ensuring fairness in dealing with both community people and park staff, especially when conflict arose between them.”

It is a testament to his contribution to conservation that he received this prestigious award which will now enable help him to continue with renewed energy. WA BiCC is proud to be working in conservation with such brave and passionate rangers and we look forward to seeing more wins for the region.

Blamah and his team of rangers
Blamah and his team of rangers


The Fallen Ranger – Mr. Friday Pyne

Friday Pyne is the second Liberian to receive (posthumously) the 2018 African Ranger Award. Mr. Pyne worked for the FDA for just over a year when he was killed, on February 27, 2017, during a confrontation with illegal miners in the Sapo National Park. Friday was born and raised in Seoh’s Village, Konobo District, Grand Gedeh County, near Sapo National Park and leaves behind his wife and two children. Friday Pyne’s death was a painful realization at the FDA that more security and support was needed for park rangers in all of Liberia’s National Parks and Protected Areas, and to underscore Blamah’s vision and commitment that is essential to improve relations with communities living at the edges of the parks, to make them partners in this critical work to conserve Liberia’s natural and national heritage for generations to come.

The Late Friday Payne
The Late Friday Pyne



West African Awardees

As a regional, West African Program, WA BiCC would like to recognize the other regional recipients of this year’s African Ranger Award:

Felix Abayomi, Nigeria

Chief Executive Officer of Lagos Lagoon Waterkeeper, Wildlife of Africa Conservation Initiative. Nominated by Marc Yaggi, Executive Director of Water Alliance, USA.

Fehintola Timothy Fola, Nigeria

Principal Park Inspector of National Park Service. Nominated by Oladipo OJO Cdrnehuis, Conservation of Park, National Park Service.

Bivougou Hamid Salvador, Gabon

Ecogarde Team Leader (Ranger Patrol Leader) of Gabonese National Park Agency. Nominated by Emmanuel de Merode, Chief Warden of Vinunga National Park.

 Lt. Lang Halima Diedhiou, Senegal

Senior Park Officer of Niokolo-Koba National Park and Assistant Project Manager for Panthera’s park support project, Direction de Parcs Nationaux (DPN). Nominated by Philipp Henschel, Regional Director for West and Central Africa, Lion Program, Panthera.


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