Alex Peal honored with Commander, Star of Africa distinction in Liberia

Alex Peal at the reading of his award citation with President Sirleaf in Liberia.
There is a saying in Liberia which says, “A man is never completely satisfied if he is not honored within his own country, regardless of how many honors he receives on the outside.”

This was my immediate reaction upon receiving the Commander, Star of Africa distinction from the President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

I had worked directly for my country for over 20 years (1970 to 1990 as a forester and a conservationist) and indirectly for 18 years. During the civil war, I fled and became a refugee in southern California, where I worked with colleagues to maintain momentum for conserving Liberia’s remaining rainforests and restoring its conservation program once the war was over.

In 1986, Liberia established its first non-government conservation organization, the Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia (SCNL); however, it was soon disrupted and then dismantled during the war years. To maintain the SCNL’s focus on conservation, a sister non-government conservation organization known as the Society for the Renewal of Nature Conservation in Liberia (SRNCL) was established in California. The SRNCL became the main source of information on the forest and wildlife situation.

It maintained conservation momentum by publication of a quarterly newsletter called the Pepperbird, named after the garden bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus). The garden bulbul is a common bird that frequent gardens; its local name is “the wake-up bird.” The newsletter published information on the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) wildlife staff and their condition during the war, maintaining a flow of important information about Liberia’s unique biodiversity.

SRNCL made its first expeditions to Liberia prior to and after the 1997 general elections that brought Charles Taylor to power. SRNCL made several other expeditions to Liberia and succeeded in reactivating the parent organization, Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia. The SCNL in turn worked with the Liberian government to restore nature conservation activities at the FDA and at Sapo National Park.

Under my leadership, The SCNL encouraged the government to ratify several international environmental conventions including the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The resumption of conservation activities in Liberia at the time encouraged Fauna & Flora International and Conservation International to work in the country, and I am very proud to have received President Sirleaf’s recognition for this work.

Alexander L. Peal is the Country Director for Conservation International-Liberia

Comments

  1. Richard "Ran" Nisbett says

    Alex Peal is a giant! His many honors and awards attest to his professional contributions but can only faintly reflect the enormity of his decency, spirit and steadfastness. I was lucky to begin my 20-year work in Liberia before the Civil War under his tutelage and today can only marvel at how blessed and enriched I am by his friendship and mentoring. He has brought his entire extended family and extensive circle of global citizens into my life inviting me along on his expedition to save the Liberian forests and forest peoples. Alex Peal is a global hero and a loyal friend!

  2. Phillip Robinson says

    Alex Peal and I first met in the late 1970s and together we conducted the feasibility survey for Sapo National Park with the support of the National Geographic Society and the Zoological Society of San Diego. His abilities to work with researchers, local inhabitants, and governmental officials, coupled with his extensive network of friends and colleagues, has made him an effective force for conservation work in Liberia. With dedication and perseverance Alex has kept forest and wildlife conservation initiatives alive in Liberia, in the face of personal danger, program setbacks and meager resources. He is truly deserving of the national recognition being bestowed upon him by his home country, and his friends and colleagues applaud him on his accomplishments.

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