Sapo National Park

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> please add information to this site! West Africa > Liberia > Sapo National Park



  • Western chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) are present in Sapo National Park.
  • The total abundance was 1,055 in 2017.
  • The chimpanzee population trend is stable.
  • The park has a total size of 1,804 km².
  • Key threats to chimpanzees are poaching and illegal mining.
  • Conservation activities have focused on long-term bio-monitoring and law enforcement.
  • Sapo National Park is Liberia's first protected area, established in 1983.

Site characteristics

Located in southeastern Liberia (between 5°–6°N and 8°–9°W), Sapo National Park is Liberia's first protected area and represents one of the most intact forest ecosystems of the country (Tweh et al. 2018). The area of the park was extended from 1,304 km² to 1,804 km² in 2003 (Tweh et al. 2018). The park forms part of the Upper Guinean Forest ecosystem, and contains high levels of biodiversity (N'Goran et al. 2010). In addition to the West African chimpanzee, other endangered and vulnerable species, including forest elephants (Loxodonta africana cyclotis), pigmy hippopotamus (Hexaprotodon liberiensis), Jentink’s duiker (Cephalophus jentinki), Red colobus (Procolobus [Piliocolobus] badius), and Diana monkeys (Cercopithecus diana diana) are found in the park (N'Goran 2010).

Table 1: Basic site information for Sapo National Park

Area: 1,804 km²
Designation: National park
Habitat types: Subtropical/tropical moist lowland

IUCN habitat categories Site designations

Ape status

A survey in 1982 (one year before the establishment of the park), confirmed the presence of chimpanzees in the Sapo forest (Anderson et al. 1983). Based on the estimates from two surveys, one in 2009 (N'Goran et al. 2010) and a second one in 2017 (Tweh et al. 2018), the chimpanzee population in the park has remained relatively stable, with an estimated abundance of approximately 1,055 individuals.

Table 2: Great ape population estimates in Sapo National Park

Species Year Abundance estimate (95% Confidence Interval) Density estimate (per km2) Encounter rate Area Method Source Comments A.P.E.S. database ID
Western chimpanzee 1983 0.24 individuals/km² present southeastern sector of the park (50 km²) transect survey Anderson et al. 1983 total survey effort: 42.7 km
Western chimpanzee 2002 present Sapo National Park transect survey Waitkuwait 2003 Assessment of Fauna & Flora International's bio-monitoring programme
Western chimpanzee 2007-2009 0.27 signs/km Sapo National Park, excluding south east area transect survey Vogt 2011 Fauna & Flora International bio-monitoring programme
Western chimpanzee 2009 1,079 (CI: 713-1,633) 0.86 individuals/km² 4.05 nests/km Sapo National Park, excluding mining areas transect survey N'Goran et al. 2010
Western chimpanzee 2016-2017 1,055 (CI: 595-1,870) 0.83 individuals/km² encounter rate Sapo National Park, excluding south east area transect survey Tweh et al. 2018 total survey effort: 38.38 km


Sapo National Park has been primarily threatened by illegal hunting and mining (Tweh et al. 2018; Greengrass 2016; N'Goran et al. 2010). An estimated 18,000 illegal miners were inhabiting the park in 2010, the majority of which was evicted by the government on the same year (Vogt 2011). A survey of two commercial hunting camps bordering the park revealed high hunting pressure in the area, and the majority of bushmeat harvested was destined to urban areas (Greengrass 2016). The carcassess documented during this survey included chimpanzees as well as other endangered and vulnerable species, such as the red colobus monkey, Diana monkey, and pygmy hippopotamus. Furthermore, the development of the road network around the park is expected to increase hunting pressure and facilitate the bushmeat trade (Greengrass 2016), as well as other illegal activities in the park.

Table 3: Threats to great apes in Sapo National Park

Category Specific threats Threat level Description Year of threat
1. Residential & commercial development 1.1 Housing & Urban Areas high illegal settlement of miners; in 2010 there were an estimated 18,000 illegal settlers [5]
2. Agriculture & aquaculture 2.1 Annual & perennial non-timber crops present present as a result of illegal settlements; scale unknown [2] ongoing
3. Energy production & mining 3.2 Mining & quarrying high illicit gold mining which has decreased since 2010 [1] ongoing
4. Transportation & service corridors 4.1 Roads & railroads present development of the road network around the park facilitates illegal human activities in the park [6] ongoing
5. Biological resource use 5.1 Hunting & Collecting Terrestrial Animals high poaching represents a major threat to chimpanzees and other species in the park [1, 2, 6], and most of the bushmeat is destined to urban areas [6] ongoing
6. Human intrusion & disturbance 6.2 War, civil unrest & military exercises high two civil wars since the establishment of the park disrupted conservation activities, and led to illegal occupation of the park, as well as poaching and extraction of natural resources [6, 7] 1989-1996, 1999-2003
7. Natural system modifications unknwon
8. Invasive & other problematic species, genes, diseases present Ebola virus disease was present in Sinoe county (where the park is located) during the 2014-2016 epidemic [8] 2014-2016
9. Pollution unknown
10. Geological Events absent
11. Climate change & severe weather unknown
12. Other options unknown

Threats list

Conservation activities

The national park forms part of the Tai-Grebo-Sapo Forest Complex, which is a conservation priority in West Africa. Conservation efforts in Sapo National Park have mainly focused on law enforcement, conservation awareness, and bio-monitoring. The WCF has supported Community Watch Teams (CWT), which comprise members from surrounding communities, and regulary patrol and support FDA rangers (WCF 2019). CWTs have played an important role in the eviction of illegal miners from the national park (WCF 2019). In 2012, Fauna & Flora International established a long-term bio-monitoring programme to follow the population trends for chimpanzees, pygmy hippotamuses, elephants, as well as duikers, birds, reptiles, and amphibians (Tweh et al. 2018). Together with Liberia's Forestry Development Authority, permanent transects are surveyed twice a year as part of this long-term bio-monitoring programme (Tweh et al. 2018).

Table 3: Conservation activities in Sapo National Park

Category Specific activity Description Year of activity
1. Residential & commercial development absent
2. Agriculture & aquaculture absent
3. Energy production & mining absent
4. Transportation & service corridors absent
5. Biological resource use 5.6. Conduct regular anti-poaching patrols Community Watch Teams supported by the WCF regularl patrol the site [9] ongoing
5.11. Provide training to anti-poaching ranger patrols Members of the Community Watch Teams are trained in the use of equipment (GPS, compass, camera) and patrolling [9] ongoing
5.14. Inform hunters of the dangers (e.g., disease transmission) of wild primate meat awareness campaigns during the Ebola crisis informed people living near the park about the risks of handling and consuming bushmeat as a preventative measure [10] 2014-2016
5.15. Implement monitoring surveillance strategies long-term bio-monitoring of chimpanzee population [1] ongoing
6. Human intrusion & disturbance 6.7. Resettle illegal human communities (i.e. in a protected area) to another location eviction of up to 18,000 illegal settlers in the park by the Liberia's government [5] 2010
7. Natural system modifications absent
8. Invasive & other problematic species, genes, diseases absent
9. Pollution absent
10. Education & Awareness 10.2. Involve local community in primate research and conservation management as part of a long-term bio-monitoring programme, staff of Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority and members of the local community are involved in the surveys [1] ongoing
11. Habitat Protection 11.2. Legally protect primate habitat the area is designated as National Park since 1983
12. Species Management absent
13. Livelihood; Economic & Other Incentives absent

Conservation activities list


Weak law enforcement has been cited as a major impediment (Greengrass 2016, N'Goran et al. 2010). As part of enforcing the protection of the park, the need to officially demarcate the buffer zone around the park has been stressed, as this area represents important habitat for chimpanzees (Tweh et al. 2018). Administrative weakness and lack of logistical and technical support have also been mentioned as challenges for Fauna & Flora International's long-term bio-monitoring programme (Waitkuwait 2003).

Impediments list

Research activities

Several surveys have been done in the park to monitor the chimpanzee population (e.g., N'Goran et al. 2010, Tweh et al. 2018), assess the impacts of conservation interventions (Tweh et al. 2018), investigate the behavior and ecology of chimpanzees in the park (Anderson et al. 1983), and investigate the impact of hunting pressure in the area (Greengrass 2016).

Documented behaviours

Chimpanzees have been observed cracking nuts at this site using a hammer-and-anvil technique; more specifically, they were observed using hammer stones, but no evidence was found that they also use wooden clubs (Anderson et al. 1983). In addition, chimpanzees in Sapo National Park are carnivorous (Anderson et al. 1983).

Relevant datasets

A.P.E.S Portal


[1] Tweh, C., Kouakou, C.Y., Chira, R., Freeman, B., Githaiga, J.M., Kerwillain, S., Molokwu-Odozi, M., Varney M. and Junker, J.(2018) Nest counts reveal a stable chimpanzee population in Sapo National Park, Liberia. Primate Conservation 2018 (32): 12 pp.
[2] N’Goran, K. P., Kouakou, C.Y. and Herbinger I. (2010) Report on the Population Survey and Monitoring of Chimpanzee in Sapo National Park, Liberia (June–December 2009). Report. Wild Chimpanzee Foundation, Abidjan, Côted’Ivoire.
[3] Anderson, R., Williamson, E.A., and Carter, J. (1983) Chimpanzees of Sapo Forest, Liberia: density, nests, tools and meat-eating. PRIMAaXS, 24(4): 594-601.
[4] Waitkuwait, W.E. (2003) Report on the First Year of Operation of a Community-based Bio-monitoring Programme in and around Sapo National Park, Sinoe County, Liberia. Report. Fauna and Flora International.
[5] Vogt, M. (2011) Results of Sapo National Park Bio-Monitoring Programme 2007-2009. Report. Fauna & Flora International, Monrovia, Liberia.
[6] Greengrass, E. (2015) Commercial hunting to supply urban markets threatens mammalian biodiversity in Sapo National Park. Oryx 50(3), 397–404.
[7] Collen, B., Howard, B., Konie, J., Daniel, O., and Rist, J. (2011) Field surveys for the endangered pygmy hippopotamus Choerpsis liberiensis in Sapo National Park, Liberia. Oryx, 45(1), 35–37.
[8] CDC (2017) 2014-2016 Ebola Outbreak Distribution in West Africa. Online:
[9] Wild Chimpanzee Foundation (2019) Activities of the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation for improved conservation of chimpanzees and their habitat in West Africa. Annual Report 2018.
[10] Ordaz-Németh, I., Arandjelovic, M., Boesch, L., Gatiso, T., Grimes, T., Kühl,H.S., Lormie, M., Stephens, C., Tweh, C., and Junker, J. (2017) The socio-economic drivers of bushmeat consumption during the West African the West African Ebola crisis. PLoS Negl. Trop. Dis. 11: e0005450.

Page completed by: A.P.E.S. Wiki Team Date: 19/03/19

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