Current Research Activities

Current Research Activities

Sapo Conservation Centre creates the environment and opportunity for researchers from within Liberia and all over the world to feel at home while exploring the region. In order to gain a deeper understanding of the unique environment of the Sapo area, a wide range of research topics are encouraged, covering biological, ecological, social or economic issues.

A report identifying knowledge gaps in the biodiversity of SNP has documented past research projects and future research opportunities and priorities in SNP. The report can be downloaded here.

Research conducted recently in the region include the following:

  • A 4 year camera trapping study in partnership with ZSL and the FDA to monitor changes in the community of ground dwelling terrestrial vertebrates designed and implemented. Results include the first picture of a Liberian Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis) in the wild, and the first evidence of Liberian Mongoose in Sapo.
  • In partnership with the Department of research ecology at Wageningen University, vegetation mapping and botanical surveys have been conducted at Sapo National Park to provide an improved understanding of its botanical resources, whilst simultaneously improving national capacity for botanical surveying. One species of snail (Maizaniella sapoensis) and 17 botanical species new to science have so far been discovered.
  • A two year study on the West African Chimpanzee was recently completed by the Max-Planck Institute inside Sapo National Park.
  • A crocodilian study confirmed the presence of slender-snouted crocodiles (Mecistops cataphractus) and African Dwarf crocodiles (Osteolaemus tetraspis) in the Sapo region
  • Two butterfly surveys identified 244 species, of which 7 were new to Liberia and comprised one new to science.
  • Comprehensive analysis of the potential for developing alternatives to bushmeat hunting and trade in the livelihood portfolios of communities in the Sapo region
  • Study on non-timber forest products in communities around Sapo National Park
  • Study of historical and contemporary artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) in and around Sapo National Park

Volunteering at SCC


Volunteering at SCC

Both long- and short- term volunteering opportunities exist at SCC for national and international applicants. At this initial stage the work of volunteers are vital to the growth of the Centre.

Volunteers are needed to help with coordinating the yearly bio-monitoring survey and to conduct trainings on community livelihood alternatives, particularly in permaculture and business management. Volunteers are also required to provide training to students and forest rangers in computer skills, data management and geographic information system (GIS) as well as ecological methods.

If you are interested in volunteering, please contact the SCC manager Dr. Mary Molokwu on



Information for researchers

Information for researchers

If you are interested in conducting your research at SCC, please do get in touch with the Center Manager if you have any questions (although also see our FAQ page). The formal application process is detailed below.

Applying for a place at SCC

A research proposal (max 5 A4 pages) should be sent to the Centre Manager at least three months prior to the proposed starting date of the research project for approval from the SCC Steering Committee. This proposal should include the following information:

  • The aim of the study and the methods of investigation to be used
  • Timing and duration of the study,
  • Equipment provided by the researcher,
  • Equipment/facilities/personnel sought from the Centre (including local expertise and field assistants)
  • Anticipated outputs and outcomes

The researcher will be alerted within 4 weeks of submission if accommodation and other research facilities are available at the time of the proposed research project.

The Centre will provide logistical and technical support as agreed to support the agreed research topic. In turn, the researcher will be expected to:

  • Keep the centre informed if there are any significant changes in the research proposal
  • Adhere to regulations on the use of Centre facilities (provided upon request from the Centre Manager)
  • Involve a national researcher in the research project, with a view to knowledge exchange, as part of SCC’s mentor scheme
  • Submit a detailed report at the end of the research project (If the research is conducted as part of thesis research, the thesis can be submitted)

More details on regulations on use of Centre facilities and other issues may be requested from the Centre Manager Dr Mary Molokwu on

Training Opportunities


Training is a focus of the SCC, with the intent to build conservation capacity in Liberia. There are a range of training opportunities available to national and international applicants at the Sapo Conservaiton Centre:

Training of Trainers (ToT)
Field Course
Workshops and Seminars
Bio-monitoring course

Facilities and Fees


Facilities and Fees

The research centre will provide administrative and logistical support to students and researchers conducting research in Sapo and environs. A research centre office and camp site are available to researchers. The Research Centre consists of four offices, a store room and a small auditorium where lectures and meetings may be held. electricity is provided by a generator and internet facilities are available for specific periods of the day.The camp site, which serves as accommodation is made up of comfortable, insect screened tents mounted over platforms and shaded from the elements with kitchen and dining facilities provided. Bathroom facilities are basic but comfortable, featuring compost latrines.

If requested and prearranged, Meals can be provided by a camp site catering team. Laundry services can also be provided for a small fee.

Fees: To be confirmed. Please contact the Centre Manager in the interim.



Who can come to Sapo Conservation Centre?
Researchers, students, Conservation professionals, school groups, research groups etc… 

Do volunteers get training?
Yes. Volunteers participate in tasks and workshops at the SCC and learn from practical as well as theoretical examples.

How do I apply to the SCC?
Email with your details, i.e. what ado you want to do there: research, train, or volunteer.

I am not Liberian. Can I volunteer at the Sapo Conservation Centre?
Yes. International volunteers are welcome. An authentic experience in a Liberian rural setting awaits them.

I am a Liberian. Can I apply to do research at the Sapo Conservation Centre? 
Yes. Liberian researchers are welcome. Partnership opportunities are available if applicable.

How do I submit my picture of Liberian fauna/flora to the website? 

Email it to with your name in the title line, and a description of the organism and location in the body.

As a graduating senior at a local University, what are my options at the SCC?
Internships and volunteer and training opportunities are available. Participation in ongoing projects is also a possibility.

I have a conservation-related question about Liberia that is not on the website or in these FAQs. Who do I do?
Email with your question. If the answer is on the site, you may not receive a response.

Sapo National Park

Sapo National Park

Location: Sinoe County, Liberia
Co-ordinates: 5°24’€²40.01’€³N 8°24’€²52.65’€³W / 5.4111139°N
Area: 180,400 hectares (1,804 km²)
Established: 1982


Sapo National Park is Liberia’€™s largest protected area of rainforest and its only national park. Named after the local Sapo (or Sao) tribe, the park was gazetted in 1983, covering an area of 1,308 km² (505 sq mi). The Sapo National Park Act (An Act for the extension of the Sapo National Park) on October 10, 2003 expanded the size of the park to 1,804 km² (697 sq mi).

Located in the Upper Guinean forest ecosystem, Sapo National Park consists entirely of lowland rainforest, including swampy areas, dryland and riparian forests. It represents one of – if not the most – intact forest ecosystem in Liberia. This lowland forest gives way to medium-altitude forest on the slopes and peaks of the Putu Mountain ridges just to the north of the Park. Satellite images analyses looking at the ‘€˜edge effect’€™ of roads and settlement have shown that the Park is at the core of the least disturbed forest in the country, and remains reasonably connected by forested corridors to several other forest blocks to the north, west and south-east
Containing some of the largest remaining intact blocks of the threatened Upper Guinean Forest, it provides a stronghold for several globally endangered species’€™ including the Pygmy Hippopotamus, the West African Chimpanzee and the Zebra Duiker. Yet there appears to be astounding amounts still to be discovered about this ecosystem, with six new plant species found in one 2009 botanical survey of Sapo National Park (SNP) alone. The park is bounded to the north by the Putu Mountains and to the west by the Sinoe River.

Throughout its history, Sapo National Park has been threatened by illegal farming, hunting, logging, and mining. In March 2005, an estimated 5,000 people lived in the park, according to the United Nations Mission in Liberia. Although efforts were undertaken to remove the illegal squatters, the park was not completely emptied until late August-early September 2005. Miners gradually returned to the park, however, drawn by its abundant natural resources. In 2010, an estimated 18,000 miners were thought to be living in the park, primarily to engage in artisanal gold mining. By October 2010, most were thought to have left the park voluntarily after an intensive awareness raising campaign by the government of Liberia.

The park’s topography is relatively homogeneous and flat. Elevations range from approximately 100 m (328 ft) in the southeast up to about 400 m (1,312 ft) in the north. Mount Putu’s 640 m (2,100 ft) summit is the highest elevation in the park. The park has a tropical climate, with temperatures ranging between 22’€“28 °C (72’€“82 °F). The forest’s average relative humidity is 91%. The park’s dry season occurs from November to April and the wet season lasts from May to October. January and December are the driest months in the park, and May and August are the wettest months. There is a mid-dry period of decreased rainfall in July, which occasionally extends into August.

Lake Piso

Lake Piso Multiple-Use Protected Area (MUPP) is about 97,159 ha (240.083 ac). It is situated on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and extends in the NW – SE direction from the Mano River at Liberia’s border with Sierra Leone to Po River between Bomi and Montserrado Counties.

The Lake Piso Basin has gained international and national interest for the richness of its biodiversity, its diverse ecosystems and its natural beauty. Known as a conservation hotspot in the Upper Guinea Rainforest, it has also been designated as an important bird area (IBA) and a wetland of international importance (RAMSAR site).

The area is an important catchment area with three rivers (Maffa, Moffe and Mawua Rivers) and several streams emptying into it. It was proposed as a nature reserve in 1983 and is now one of top three sites prioritized by government to form a part of the Liberia’s protected area network.

Except for the cape (after which the county was named: Cape Mount), the topography of the area is relatively flat with coastal sandy soil covering to a great extent (8-10 miles from the sea coast). Beyond the coastal sandy soil, clayish loam and sandy loam soils occur. There are lakelets, lagoons, rivers and creeks found in the area which adds up to the scenic beauty of the site. Lakelets and lagoons in particular are common in the southeast of the proposed area. The altitude of the area varies between 0 to 322m above sea level.

Four main ecosystem types are found here, namely: 1) humid forest (2) wetlands and coast (3) a brackish lake covering 14,971 ha, and mangroves and (4) dry land, including extensive mixed savannah-savannah woodland on the lowland.

The Lake Piso basin hosts a number of important wildlife species including migratory birds (such as herons, plover, flamingo and ibis) and resident bird species (such as copper-tailed glossy starlings, rufus- winged illadopsis, African pied hornbill, double-spurred francolin, pied crows and the spur-winged goose). Several important mammalian species can be found in the area, including forest buffalo, black duiker, yellow-backed duiker, Maxwell’s duiker, West African Chimpanzees, Olive colobus, and the Lesser spot-nosed monkey.

The climate of the area is tropical with two major seasons: dry and rainy seasons, occurring from September – April and from March – September respectively. The average rainfall is estimated to 4,000 mm per annum with the highest precipitation in September. The temperature ranges between 29 and 32ºC (but infrequently drops between 24 – 20ºC during December and January or increases to 33ºC during March), The Average humidity is about 80 percent.



Geography and climate

Geography and climate

Liberia lies on the west coast of Africa between Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire with the north east area of the country bordering with Guinea. The diversity of topographic and climatic conditions in Liberia has generated a mosaic of habitat types which support a high diversity of wildlife.

Liberia’s diverse topography ranges from flat coastal lowlands to rolling hills further inland. Plateaus and low mountains lie to the north of the country with higher mountain ranges found close to the border with Guinea.

The majority of Liberia’s coastline is composed of sandy beaches, mangrove habitats and lagoons of fresh, brackish and saltwater. Lake Piso is the largest of these and of particular significance for wildlife. There are six major river systems, some of which originate as far north as Guinea and flow south-west through Liberia, to the coast. The western area of the Upper Guinean Forests, a region of tropical humid forest, lies in the mountainous region of Liberia and provides critical habitat for a range of species.

The rainy season extends from March to September with monsoon rains arriving from the south-west. During the dry season, hot north-eastern winds (known as the Harmattan winds) blow from the Saharra. Visit our Fauna and Flora webpages to find out more about the rich wildlife and unique species found in Liberia.



The major threats faced by Liberia’s wildlife are similar to those affecting other parts of West Africa. Human pressure on natural resources such as commercial logging of forest, clearance of land for agricultural and development purposes and mining activities, has caused considerable pressure on wildlife in the region.

While parts of Liberia have been declared protected, evidence suggests that poaching and illegal deforestation and mining activities are still occurring in these areas. Critical habitats, such as the Upper Guinean Forests in Liberia that support a number of endangered species, are becoming fragmented. Lack of law enforcement is considered a problem, although efforts are being made to address illegal activities in some areas (news link).

Collection for the pet trade and hunting for bushmeat threatens some of the charismatic mammals found in Liberia, such as the West African Chimpanzee. Hunting is attributed to the suspected extinction of the Miss Waldron’s Red Colobus monkey, and the current decline of other species, such as the Jentink’s Duiker.