From war to peace: Sierra Leone eyes bird-watching money

Wildlife News


A man with a binoculars at the bird park in Sierra Leone (archive shot)


Sierra Leone is trying to change its image as a war-torn country by promoting ecotourism, writes journalist Paige McClanahan at the launch of the new Gola Rainforest National Park.

If you are looking to plan a bird-watching holiday, Sierra Leone might not be the first destination that jumps to mind. But that could change soon, if the government of this small West African nation gets its way.

Earlier this month, Sierra Leone opened the Gola Rainforest National Park, a 71,000-hectare protected area that is home to more bird species than can be found breeding in all of the UK.

The government hopes that the new park might help nature-loving tourists see beyond the battered image that defines the country overseas.

The reason for that image is a brutal 11-year civil war which claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people. But Sierra Leone has been at peace since the conflict ended in 2002.

"The great news is that despite the area being one of the worst hit during the war, the biodiversity survived relatively intact," said Jonathan Barnard, the head of the tropical forest unit at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which has been doing conservation work in the Gola region since 1989.

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