Sapo National Park, Liberia

Sapo national park is one of the national parks in Liberia situated in the Sinoe County. The park is the largest country’s protected area of rainforest and was the first national park to be established in the country. It contains the second largest area of primary tropical rainforest in West Africa after Tai National Park in neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire.

Covering an area of approximately 1,804 square kilometers, Sapo national park is located in the Upper Guinean forest ecosystem, a biodiversity hotspot with the highest mammal species of any region in the world as estimated by Conservation International and in the Western Guinean Lowland forests eco region according to the World Wide Fund for Nature’s eco regions classification scheme.

Situated in Sinoe County in southwestern Liberia, Sapo national park stretches on an area of approximately 1,804 square kilometers. The park is bordered by the Putu Mountains in the north and the Sinoe River in the west. Its southeastern region has lower elevations of approximately 100 m and the gentle hills and in the north, there are elevations of 400 m and the steep ridges. Sinoe River is the largest river in the park though there are other small rivers and streams between the ridges in the park.

Flora of the park

The Republic of Liberia has the largest remaining part of the Upper Guinean forest ecosystem with almost 42% remaining forest. The remaining part of the forest – Upper Guinean forest is located in other countries like Cote d’Ivoire with 28%, Ghana with 16%, and Guinea with 8%, and Sierra Leone with 5% and Togo with 1%. Sapo national park has one of the richest amounts of floral species in Liberia with a variety of endemic species. The park composes of about 63% of primary and mature secondary forests, 13% of swamp forest, 13% of seasonally inundated forest and 11% young secondary forest. The forest of the park contains trees that can grow to a height of 70 m. Among the plant species in the park include the legumes Tetraberlinia tubmaniana, Gilbertiodendron splendidum, and the Brachystegia leonensis tree.

Wildlife of the park

Sapo national park is a regional centre of biodiversity hosting more than 125 mammal species and over 590 species of birds. The park is a home to diversity of threatened species including the African golden cat, Liberian mongoose, Gola malimbes, white necked rock fowl and the white breasted guineafowl. Other species in the park include the African fish eagle, African civet, grey parrot, great blue turaco; speckle throated otter, giant forest hog, water chevrotain, the seven species of monkeys including the endangered Diana monkey and the three species of pangolin. Other species in the park include the crocodiles, bee-eaters, egrets, hornbills, leopards, rollers, kingfishers and the sunbirds.

Sapo national park is a home to about seven species of duiker antelopes including the vulnerable Jentink’s duiker, zebra duiker, bay duikers and the Maxwell’s duikers. Also, it contains large population of the pygmy hippos, common chimpanzees and the endangered African forest elephants.