Obama International Foundation School, II

Paynesville, Liberia.

New pillowcase dresses for the girls at Obama School.

New pillowcase dresses for the girls at Obama School.

Sharing lunch.

Sharing lunch.

Cloudburst during recess.

Cloudburst during recess.

Sudden rain collapses a canopy during football recess.

Sudden rain collapses a canopy during football recess.

Reading and writing.

Reading and writing.

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girl with a child, Brewerville, Liberia

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Monrovia, Liberia. January 31, 2018, blue moon rising.

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Monrovia, Liberia. BFF

plea… a picha wi’ma fren…

Two women break from market-selling for a picture on Mechlin Street, Monrovia.

Two women break from market-selling for a picture on Mechlin Street, Monrovia.

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Gola Forest National Park, Liberia

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A foggy sunrise in Gola Forest, Liberia. Transpiration of plants cools the forest environment in the night and pumps moisture into the atmosphere.

Most of the remaining Upper Guinean Rainforest is found in Liberia. Two protected forest tracts, Sapo National Park in the Southeast and Gola Forest National Park in the Northwest, have been set aside to protect flora and fauna in Liberia.

Getting to Gola National Park necessitates 4-wheel driving and reconfiguring many of the small bridges in the region. The numerous streams that feed the Mano and Lofa Rivers are crossed on old log and plank bridges.

Getting to Gola Forest National Park necessitates 4-wheel driving, high clearance, and reconfiguring several of the small bridges in the region. The numerous streams that feed the Mano and Lofa Rivers are crossed on old, deteriorating log and plank bridges.

88,000 hectares of forest were set aside in 2016 to create Gola Forest National Park, in Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu Counties. The process of demarcating boundaries has begun this year, creating controversy with mining, lumbering and bush-meat hunting operations in and around the park. Gola Forest National Park will be linked to the Gola Rainforest National Park in Sierra Leone, creating a unique transboundary Peace Park covering over 2,000 km².

The heat, high humidity, and hills bounded by slow-moving streams make for a strenuous hike. Dry season is the best time to visit. Rainy season would present many logistical challenges.

The heat, high humidity, and hills bounded by slow-moving streams make for a strenuous hike. Dry season is the best time to visit. Rainy season would present many logistical challenges.

According to Joel Cholo Brooks, Liberian journalist (October 3, 2016 Global News Network: Liberia), the forests in Liberia contain over 2,900 different vascular plants, including 225 tree species. Also on the list, 600 species of birds, [500?] mammal [is probably closer to 50 mammal species] and 75 reptile species. Many are currently endangered, including the Pygmy hippopotamus, forest elephant, chimpanzee, zebra duiker, bongo forest antelope, and all crocodile species.

Crossing a shallow stream in Gola Forest.

Crossing a shallow stream in Gola Forest.

Some of the forest remains virgin, and some has been previously logged. Gola Forest is a region of rock-studded hills and valleys, crossed with streams and rivers that flow even in the dry season.

A strangler fig entwines its host to reach sunlight above the forest canopy. Eventually, it will kill the host tree to become self-supporting as the tree decomposes.

A strangler fig entwines its host to reach sunlight above the forest canopy. Eventually the host tree will die, leaving the fig to become self-supporting as the tree decomposes.

A park fee of $30US per person will allow entrance into the park. A guide is also necessary,  and usually at least two are arranged, for approximately $10US per guide, per day. Camping facilities are rustic. Tent-camping at the edge of the park is available. Food, water, charcoal, and sleeping arrangements are the visitor’s responsibility. Finding someone to cook meals for you (and your guides) can usually be arranged at the nearest village.

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The drive from Monrovia becomes challenging once you leave the coal-tar road. It is approximately eight hours on dry season roads to get to Gola Forest National Park. Past Tubmanburg, the road turns to gravel with some of the hills covered in rocks. Crossing Lofa Bridge is not for the faint of heart, as are the numerous (and in varying states of decay) stream crossings of log and plank design. In a few cases, the bridges have collapsed altogether, requiring a deviation through the stream bed. A full tank of fuel, a sat-phone, and provisions of food and water will ease the stress of backcountry travel.

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Camp Alpha Town, Liberia

Late-afternoon in Camp Alpha Town, the furnace of midday heat dissolving in an atmosphere of haze. We return from a day in the forest, hot, sweaty, dehydrated. To the village house of Chief Jusu Dunar we trudge like weary soldiers, sitting on wicker chairs and wooden benches to give thanks for permission to walk in one of Liberia’s remaining forests.

Chief Jusu Dunar, at his home in Camp Alpha Town.

Chief Jusu Dunar, at his home in Camp Alpha Town.

Camp Alpha Town is a mining outpost at the edge of the Gola Forest, Grand Cape Mount County. Diamond mining is the business here. Prospectors and bushmeat hunters cut trails into the forest carrying shovels and single-shot guns on a quest for riches, or maybe just sustenance for another day. Most are not supporting the newly created Gola National Park without reservations. The demarcation of this park will begin in late January. Enforcement of the park’s boundaries will be a contentious issue in Camp Alpha Town, and other villages along the forest edge.

Braiding hair on a Sunday afternoon in the town square of Camp Alpha Town.

Braiding hair on a Sunday afternoon in the town square of Camp Alpha Town.

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baboon for sale, $350 US

Monrovia, Liberia.    Baboon for sale, $350 US. A baby chimpanzee (aka baboon in Liberia) for sale in Mamba Point neighborhood of Monrovia. It’s mother was likely killed for the bushmeat trade that sees little regulation in Liberia. Strategies are lacking for response, intervention, confiscation and education to try to curb wildlife trafficking in Liberia. Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue is full to overflowing with orphaned chimpanzees that have escaped smuggling and trafficking operations.

chimp4sale_dkortephoto

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Tima Village, Cape Mount County, Liberia

Gola Community Forest.   A mother with daughters pause on the way to their plantation bordering the recently established Gola National Park. Slash and burn agriculture is slowly carving away Liberia’s remaining rainforest. Community forests are being established to try to turn over the management of remaining forests to local residents, with emphasis on preservation and sustainable use.

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Liberia Presidential Election, illustrated

Monrovia, Liberia. The Daily Talk, an outdoor newspaper on chalkboard with behind the scenes (and subjective) reporting. Present commentary addresses the recent Presidential election in Liberia. 24th and Tubman, Sinkor.

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dry fish

Monrovia, Liberia. Fish arranged on a box in the Fante’ fishing community of West Point are dried before going to market.

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