Sapo National Park

Sapo National Park (SNP), located in the south-central portion of Liberia, encompasses 180,363 ha of lowland rainforest, including swampy areas, dryland and riparian forests, and represents one of – if not the most – intact forest ecosystem in Liberia. Notable fauna within the park include forest elephant (Loxodonta africana cyclotis), Jentink’s (Cephalophus jentinki) and Zebra Duikers (C. zebra) and large primate populations, including the Diana monkey (Cercopithecus diana), red colobus (Procolobus badius), black and white Colobus (Colobus polycomos) and the western chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes verus). Also found within the park are several populations of the endangered pygmy hippopotamus (Hexaprotodon liberiensis).

Pygmy hippopotamus

Known to the indigenous Sapo people who live around the park as Nin-gben, the pygmy hippo is a very secretive animal hiding during the day in swamps or in streams, and coming out at night to feed on fallen fruits and leaves and roots of a variety of forest plants. Unlike the Sapo people’s taboos surrounding chimpanzees, which if hunted incurs a high penalty, the hippo is targeted by hunters for its meat and teeth (the teeth being used for decoration such as necklaces). However, it is said in Sapo that if a hunter kills Nin-gben, he must cut off and burry the tail. If not, anyone that the hunter meets while he carries the tail will die, as the tail is believed to be very powerful. Unfortunately this taboo doesn’t prevent pygmy hippos from being hunted.

Although the main threat to pygmy hippos in the region is habitat destruction, hunting has been the key threat to these animals in Sapo National Park where the lowland forest remains intact. During the civil war thousands of hunters and gold miners inhabited the park, and although the amount of wildlife killed is unknown, pygmy hippos were said to be targeted by hunters, along with elephants and a variety of duiker and primate species.

This blog was written by Robert Howard (Technical Advisor for Bio-monitoring and Research), based at Sapo National Park, Liberia.


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  1. James Addo said,

    on May 10th, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    I come to Liberia very often and will be moving there for a year in a few months. I wouldlike to visit the park on my next long trip in June. How can I do this effectively without traveling for several days. Does the US helicopter come out there?


  2. Robert Howard said,

    on May 17th, 2007 at 5:18 pm


    The UN helicopter does travel to Greenville the county capital, but that still leaves a 2 hour drive up to the park. I’m not sure if the UN will allow tourists on the helicopter. The other otion is driving from Monrovia which takes a couple of days and now that the wet season has set in the roads are sometimes impassable. I would suggest going to the FDA office whenyour in Monrovia and meet with Theo Freeman head of conservation who can assist you the best options.


  3. Michal said,

    on January 17th, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Dear Robert,
    I want know,if you possible go to Sapo national park for tourist and if you there some lodge.How money red colobus live there?did you see?

  4. Robert said,

    on February 8th, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    You can go to Sapo as a tourist but you have to do alot of the arranging yourself as the park isn’t set up for tourism yet. We do however get the occassional person coming in for the day if they are working in the area. The best way to organise a trip is to go to the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) office in Monrovia. The FDA is the government body incharge of managing National Parks. Their website is

    We don’t have any estimates on the number of red colobus in the park, the biomonitoring programme is mainly collecting trend data, but will be used for density estimates when more transects are established. However red colobus are the most commonly recorded primate along with the Diana Monkey and are often seen in groups of 10-15.


  5. Brian said,

    on February 25th, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    Hi Robert,
    I’ll be working in Liberia (probably near Buchanan) from June-August and would like to visit Sapo at the end of my trip. Just wondering a couple things.

    1) How much would it cost (approx.) to arrange everything (i.e. transport, guides, equipment)?

    2) Is it possible to go there in July or August considering it’s the wet season. Even if you can get there, will it be worth it given the weather?

    3) How much time do you need to budget to get there, get back, and the time in the park (to make it worth it)?


  6. Terra Roberts said,

    on May 2nd, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    I am doing research on parks in Liberia. I need help to find the right ones to report on. It is a school project. Thank you for your help to aid me in this report.


  7. Philip said,

    on April 3rd, 2009 at 12:36 am

    Hi Robert,I am a Liberia in Ghana over 13 years now.I will soon be relocating in Australia but have told my friends and families about the Sapo national park.They want to get there and visit the Sapo national park.They are 15 in numbers,please tell me how much it will cost them.

  8. Jonathan said,

    on May 7th, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    I was in Liberia in 2005 during the election and was privy to visit the Sapo park. I have never seen a more beautiful park in the world. I have visited Mexico, Argentina and Kenya. All with animal roaming. I must tell you that Sapo is nature untouched. Even the rebel from the civil war were afraid to enter the park. Call FDA in Liberia for more info.
    One disclaimer, I am a Liberian with extensive travel background.

  9. Jonathan said,

    on May 7th, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    since I am a Liberian, don’t take my word for what I said about the Sapo National Park. Check this url out. It may help you.

  10. Jane Surerus said,

    on May 27th, 2009 at 8:47 am

    Hello Robert, like many an intrepid visitor, I want to get to Sapo to photograph the wildlife. This trip as arisen unexpectedly so I am scrambling to work out details. I will be in Monrovia June 1/09 and have one week available. Should I go straight to The FDA?
    Any information would be appreciated!

    thank you
    Jane Surerus

  11. Summer Camps said,

    on October 30th, 2010 at 7:38 am

    Maybe you could change the blog title EDGE Blog » Sapo National Park to more generic for your subject you create. I enjoyed the blog post nevertheless.

  12. tony said,

    on April 8th, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    Robert..i work for UNMIL and would love to come visit.How can I do so? i want to get outhere before may and the rainy season..thanks! tony

  13. patrick soule said,

    on May 10th, 2011 at 11:24 am

    I have seen postings on other websites that they are Drill primates in Sapo park? Is this accurate? Please respond to my email. I appreciate your work to preserve this crucial place. – Patrick

  14. on July 17th, 2011 at 10:21 am

    haha the 1 who’s posting the comments

  15. Anton said,

    on December 21st, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    Hi there. I am still new to blogs, so I hope I am doing this right. I am working in Liberia, and will return for three weeks at the end of January 2013. I am planning to visit SAPO NP for 2 days, and would really appreciate any advice, as information about the park seems to be limited. Please email me, and I shall respond []. Much, much appreciated. Anton.

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