19 July 2013
Together with the Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL) and the Government of Sierra Leone, we've been working in the Gola Rainforest for more than 20 years.
The forest is positively teeming with life. There's more than 500 species of butterfly, 45 species of mammal, including pygmy hippos, forest elephants and chimpanzees, and over 300 species of bird, including rufous fishing owls and white-necked picathartes.
The Gola Rainforest was established as a Forest Reserve for commercial use in the 1930s. But in the decades that followed it has suffered from unsustainable commercial logging, and was under threat from mining companies seeking to clear the forest for iron ore, and from shifting small-scale farming.
Saving the forests of Sierra Leone
Gola Rainforest became Sierra Leone's second National Park in December 2011. It's the country's most ambitious conservation programme and has been a terrific success.
As well as protecting the forest for the amazing wildlife that lives there, we're helping to support community development projects to rebuild schools and bridges, fix water supplies, build clinics and establish sustainable uses for the forest.
A cross-border Peace Park is being created together with neighbouring Liberia, where more good-quality forest lies. Though we've been working in Gola for a while, there's still much to do...
A hundred years ago, the whole coast of West Africa, from Guinea to Togo, was covered by Upper Guinea forest, with trees so big it would take a dozen people to encircle them. Few of those beautiful big trees are left.
Jonathan Barnard, RSPB Head of Tropical Forests