everyday gandhis' Team Trip to Nimba County


Introduction

On September 27, members of everyday gandhis Voinajama and Monrovia team embarked on a three-day journey to Nimba County, Sanniquellie City after being reliably informed of the elephants that have been peacefully touring the County. The team arrived in Sanniquellie at 9 pm and was warmly welcomed by staff of Radio Nimba and Mr. Peter Barlon, Chairman and Chief Elder, Council of Sanniquellie. Later that evening, Daniel Gatteh, the County Reporter of Radio Nimba, introduced us to Mr. Korvah K. Vanyanbah, Chief Park Warden of East Nimba Nature.


The elephants in Garlay

During the meeting, Mr. Vanyanbah expressed his excitement in meeting with us since we are the first international or local organization that have come to buttress their efforts in making sure that the elephants are safe and protected. He told us that the elephants entered Liberia on September 1, 2020, from Guinea, and they have been moving from town to town through the Gio National forest and villages along that belt. He further explained that a Guinean ranger alerted him, stating vividly that the elephants were three in numbers- the mother, father, and baby, and the mother was killed by an unknown hunter (s), so the other two left Guinea to seek refuge in Liberia.


Boakai M. Kromah informed the Chief Ranger of the purpose of our trip, stating the goal and mission of everyday gandhis, our activities in Voinjama with an emphasis on community healing, forest restoration, wildlife protection, and the role of Vayamua Saryon, the Elephant Dreamer. Boakai assured the chief ranger of everyday gandhis’ full support in protecting the elephants and the surrounding communities.


A dream by Mr. Peter Barlon- chief elder, Council of Sanniquellie

The chief elder told us that two weeks before the coming of the elephants, he had a dream that a strange animal would come to Nimba County and the animal would be peaceful and calm. According to him, he thinks there is a need for the County to make a sacrifice. He did not tell us which sacrifice in particular. However, he said it has to be a considerable sacrifice, and it should include everyone- the elders and local community members. Moreover, two weeks after his dream, the elephants entered Sanniquellie.

On the right is Papay Mamadee, Boakai middle and the Elephant Dreamer, left

Interpretation by Vayamua Saryon, the Elephant Dreamer

Mr. Saryon said there is a need for those elephants to be protected. To achieve this, the County needs to sacrifice a cow. He further explained that those elephants are there (in Nimba) for a purpose: they came to protect a citizen of Nimba, whom is expected to be prosperous and very successful. And if anyone tempers or tries to kill those elephants, there will be a massive damage and destruction in Nimba.


The elephants – their journey to Liberia

According to Mr. Korvah K. Vanyanbah, Chief Park Warden of East Nimba Nature Reserved, the elephants came to Liberia for two reasons: 1. the mother elephant was killed in Guinea and 2. The elephants are seeking protection in Liberia. They came in through a town called Gbooirdavoryee to Karnplay, Buutuo, to Dinplay and forlay. We last saw the elephants in Glarlay, a town before New Yourpea.


Since their arrival, there has not been any threat or danger so far. Citizens have been warned not to kill or harm them. Also, the elephants have been peacefully touring towns and villages in Nimba and eating excessively since September 1, 2020.


The elephants moving from Gbarpea to Glarlay in search of food

eg team interview on Joy FM 98.5

At 8 am on September 28, Alihaji Mamadee G. Kamara and Mahawa Komala represented the team on Joy FM early morning show where we briefly talked about everyday gandhis’ activities in Vionjam


a and the purpose our visit. In the interview, Mr. Kamara spoke about eg establishment and works in Voinjama after the civil crisis through community healing, dream cycle while emphasizing the need for communities to protect and safeguard those elephants. Mahawa spoke about the importance of elephants in forest ecosystem, asserting that elephants are keystone species, and they should be protected since they play an essential role in maintaining the ecosystem in which they live. Mahawa emphasized on how forest elephants are going extinct due to human activities and how elephants restore forest and fight against climate change.


Spreading the message of preparedness and protection

When we arrived in Sanniqullie, we were told that the elephants had left Buutuo, and they were in Forlay, a small town near Ivory Coast Border, a 6-hour drive from Ganta City. We rushed back to Ganta from Sanniquellie with the hope of shuttling a vehicle to get to Forlay since the distance is far and risky for motorbikes. Fortunately for us, Mr. Vanyanba agreed to take us with his team since the rangers were heading there to join their colleagues in the field. We picked up for Forlay at 3: 45 pm. While on our way, we made a 10 minutes stop to each of the towns along the road, including Saclepea, Graie, Zuato, Toweh Town, Sarlay, Tilteepea, and Garpea. We met with the town chief and youth chairman of each of these towns, and sensitized them about the elephants.


However, it appeared that majority of them (residents) had heard about the elephants, and they were excited about seeing them. We encouraged them not to panic or get scared if the elephants came around. Part of the awareness messages was: not to wear orange, red, yellow, or clothes with reflective colors; not to shoot at the elephants or attempt to throw a stone at them; avoid holding sharp instruments like cutlass, axe if they came around; what to do / what not to do when the elephants attempt to eat their crops; not to point flashlight or phone light in their eyes while taking pictures. We realized how excited and anxious the people were in anticipation of seeing the elephants during the awareness.


Ranger Grace Korte, one of the head rangers, strongly warned residents to stay 100m away from the elephants wherever they are. Grace further explained that elephants do not like light and the scent of its dung. She told farmers to light fire or burn the elephants' dung if they continued to damage their crops.

eg team and FDA ranger in Sacleapea

Meeting and sacrifice with the Elders and residents of Forlay

We arrived in Forlay at 12 mid-night after a long and tiring journey. We rested for a few hours, and at 8 am, we had a meeting with Forlay's township. Papay Mamadee started the meeting with an opening prayer, followed by introduction of the team. The head ranger, Mr. Vanyanba thanked the township for their warm welcome and coorperation. He told them that the government is aware of the elephants, asserting that the coming of the elephants in Nimba is very strange and that it’s not strange in Lofa. He also said it’s the government’s obligation to ensure those elephants are protected with the community support and the supports of concerned group like everyday gandhis. He further said that when the elephants enter any town or village, it is mandatory upon the town chief to ensure their protection since Liberia is signatory to the Convention on Biodiversity. He cautioned them to adhere to all safety measures presented by Ranger Grace Korte. Lastly, he stated that the government is doing everything humanly possible and exploring ways to protect the elephants, and they are hoping the elephants enter one of the protected areas (East Nimba Nature Reserve or the Sapo National Park in Sanoe County) for protection. Moreover, the government has committed to take the names of farmers whose crops were damaged to compensate them, but he did not seem very sure about that.


After his presentation, Boakia Kromah introduced eg team to the township; He told them about everyday gandhis’ mission and the sacrifice the team has come to make in order to prevent the elephants from getting hurt and/or harming other people.



Meeting with the township of Forlay


Meeting with the residents of Forlay

The offering:

Papay Mamadee presented ten kola nuts to Lawrence Zulu, the Town Chief of Forlay as tradition demands. Mr. Zulu (The town chief) welcomed and thanked the team for coming to their aid. Moreover, papay Mamadee added that elephants are ‘symbol of peace' and it is essential that we make traditional sacrifices – whether big or small so that we can co-exist with the elephants until they return back to the forest in harmony. Boakai gave the township a plastic of raw peanuts as recommended by the Elephant Dreamer. In addition, Mr. Saryon (Elephant Dreamer) told the township to dig a hole and bury a hand-full of peanuts on their farms and around the town. He added that the offering/ sacrifice would prevent the elephants from coming back and curtail the damage they might cause in the town and on their farms.


After presenting the peanuts to Mr. Zulu (town chief), the other plastic was given to FDA rangers. The Elephant Dreamer told the rangers to make the same offering to other towns and villages as they follow the elephants. The meeting and sacrifice with Forlay’s township was very successful.

Elephant Dreamer discussing how the peanuts should be used

Recommendation

From our visit to Forlay, to seeing the elephants and closely interacting with citizens and elders of Nimba, we recommend the following:

  • Carry out massive awareness on wildlife conversation for a week both in person and on the radio

  • Urgent need to make a sacrifice in Nimba (Highly recommended)


Conclusion

We successfully carried out all of the activities as planned. The FDA rangers were pleased and glad to work with us. They thanked everyday gandhis for coming to buttress their effort because the last month has been very tough for his team (The rangers). Mr. Vanyanba (Chief Ranger) said he is hoping we could make more sacrifice and offering to save people's farms and protect the elephants. He also hopes that we can join them in doing more awareness. We saw the elephants. They look healthy and in good shape. They are peaceful and harmless. The team is grateful to Mr. Vanyanba and his team for taking us to Forlay. We would not have gotten there without their support and partnership. We also thank Ma Cyndie and everyone for making this possible.



Mahawa and Saybah in photo with FDA rangers in Garlay







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