Human conflicts may sometimes benefit wildlife by depopulating wilderness areas but there is evidence from Africa that the impacts tend to be negative. The forested states of West Africa have experienced much recent human conflict but there have been no assessments of impacts on the wildlife. We conducted surveys of mammals in the 710-km2 Gola Forest reserves to assess the impact of the 1991-2001 civil war in Sierra Leone. Gola is the most important remaining tract of lowland forest in the country and a key site for the conservation of the highly threatened forests of the Upper Guinea region. We found that Gola has survived well despite being in the heart of the area occupied by the rebels. We recorded 44 species of larger mammal, including 18 threatened, near-threatened and endemic species, accounting for all species recorded in pre-war surveys and adding several more (African buffalo Syncerus caffer nanus and water chevrotain Hyemoschus aquaticus). Populations of primates were healthy with little evidence of decline. Duiker detection rates were low and further work is required to confirm their numbers as they include five species endemic (or near endemic) to the Upper Guinea region, three of which are threatened. However, the population of African forest elephants Loxodonta cyclotis has collapsed, with only a few individuals remaining from c. 110 in the mid 1980s. We conclude that peacetime pressures from the bushmeat trade, clearance for agriculture, logging and mining are likely to be far greater for Gola than the pressures from the civil war.
Lindsell, J. A., Klop, E., & Siaka, A. M. (2011). The impact of civil war on forest wildlife in West Africa: Mammals in Gola Forest, Sierra Leone. Oryx, 45(1), 69-77. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0030605310000347