The Western Area Peninsula Forest (WAPF) Reserve is part of the Freetown peninsula, a narrow chain of undulating hills approximately 37 km long and 14 km wide, with peaks reaching 900 m. It contains the only remaining patch of tropical rainforest in west Sierra Leone. A thin strip of shoreline bounds it to the north, west and south. Freetown, with a population of 800,000 (1992 census), occupies the northern end of the peninsula and several settlements are found along the roads leading from the capital. The interior hills are unpopulated, but much wood-cutting and, to a lesser extent, farming occur within the Forest Reserve, especially around the boundaries. The vegetation is mainly closed-canopy, lowland evergreen forest, interrupted by laterite plains covered with natural grassland. The relief is generally fairly steep and hills are drained by a number of rocky, seasonally flowing streams. The reserve includes two major dams that supply water to Freetown and other communities around the peninsula.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. A total of 314 species have been recorded from the site, including 91 certain/probable breeders and a number of migrants that occasionally visit water-bodies in and around the reserve. The WAPF holds five species of global conservation concern. Two active colonies, with five nests, of Picathartes gymnocephalus have been discovered in this reserve; six other nesting sites are known, but are either abandoned or are of uncertain activity status.
Non-bird biodiversity: The WAPF supports the following primate species: Pan troglodytes verus (EN), Procolobus badius (LR/nt), Colobus polykomus (LR/nt), Cercocebus atys (LR/nt)and Cercopithecus diana (VU). Other fauna known from this site include three species of duiker, Cephalopus jentinki (VU), C. niger (LR/nt) and C. maxwelli (LR/nt), as well as the frog Cardioglossa aureoli.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The WAPF is a Non-hunting Forest Reserve. There is a proposal to convert most of the site into a multiple-use management reserve for ecotourism, fuelwood production, fisheries, and for the remaining primary forest to be designated a National Park. Threats to the reserve include illegal farming practices, hunting, logging and wood-cutting. The latter is currently the greatest threat because of the proximity of Freetown. Sale of wood for fuel constitutes a major income-generating activity for many of the inhabitants of the peninsular villages. The creation of settlements, which necessitates vegetation clearance along the foot of the hills, is a common sign of encroachment into the reserve. These activities also pose the threat of siltation to the coastal habitats around the peninsula. In addition, rock is quarried from areas very close to the reserve and poses a significant long-term threat. A recent application to prospect for gold and platinum in the reserve is being considered by government.
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Western Area Peninsula Forest National Park. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 31/01/2023.