Scientists capture first Liberian mongoose records in Sapo National Park

A research team from Zoological Society of London, Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority has captured the first records of the Liberian mongoose in Sapo National Park, in south-east Liberia. The findings have been reported in the Journal of Small Carnivore Conservation.

The Liberian mongoose is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, not much is known about its population status or range, although it is thought to be declining due to extensive habitat loss and hunting for its meat.

These animals are found mainly in swamp forest and stream beds with deep, sandy soils where earthworms (its main food source) are abundant. Liberian mongooses are thought to be important “ecosystem engineers” because their foraging behaviour, turning over large areas of forest, helps to create a more varied and diverse landscape that can benefit other species.

Until now, this species was only known from north-east Liberia and western Côte d’Ivoire, and although it was presumed to occur in similar habitats in adjacent areas, previous attempts to confirm this had proven fruitless.

Liberian Mongoose

The new records were captured in Sapo National Park, with the introduction of a systematic camera-trapping survey by ZSL, with support from Fauna and Flora International and the Liberian Forestry Development Authority.

According to the paper’s authors, “These first verifiable records of Liberian mongoose in Sapo National Park provide valuable information on the distribution range of this poorly documented species.”

ZSL’s Dr Ben Collen said “this find highlights the power of new technology like camera traps to reveal new things about the hidden lives of wildlife, which we had no way of recording until now”.

Sapo National Park, an expanse of lowland rainforest covering an area of over 180,000 hectares, is one of Liberia’s most intact tropical forest ecosystems and the country’s only national park. The park harbours an exceptional array of fauna and flora, including many species that are found nowhere else on earth. It provides one of the last strongholds for the pygmy hippopotamus, the West African chimpanzee and Jentink’s duiker (a type of antelope).

ZSL has been working with Fauna & Flora International and the Forestry Development Authority since 2008, but until recently research in the south-western and north-eastern areas of the park has been restricted due to security concerns relating to armed artisanal gold miners operating in the park.

However, in 2010 most of the miners were evacuated, and the bio-monitoring plan has consequently been extended, with data collection set to commence in these formerly inaccessible areas.

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