The History of SCNL
Founded in 1986 by Alexander Peal, the former goalie of the Liberian national football team, the Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia is Liberia’s oldest and most prestigious civil society conservation organization. In its almost 30-year career, SCNL has been a strong supporter of responsible environmental stewardship for Liberia’s outstanding rainforest and biodiversity.
The movement that led to the formation of SCNL began in 1976, when the Liberian government created the Forestry Development Authority as a means of safeguarding the nation’s biodiversity, especially its forest cover. Alexander Peal, who trained as a forestry expert before becoming a football star, realized the potential of this fledgling organization and helped the agency to organize a Wildlife and National Parks division, which he led from 1977 to 1990. During this time, he was instrumental in creating the Sapo National Park, which was officially granted national park status in 1983. Peal went on to forge partnerships between Liberia and the World Conservation Union and the World Wildlife Fund, which led to Liberia signing the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
In 1986, Peal and fellow conservationists founded SCNL as a means of supporting crucial conservation efforts by the Liberian government. Through Peal’s image as a national sports hero, SCNL was able to promote conservation education throughout Liberia, and the Society emerged as the nation’s only non-governmental organization dedicated to environmental protection. As the Liberian civil war erupted in 1989, SCNL was forced to postpone its activities within the nation, as Peal and fellow staff members were forced to flee the country to avoid becoming high-profile targets. In exile in the United States and elsewhere, SCNL members watched as much of their work was dismantled by the chaos engulfing their nation. Peal, determined to keep environmental protection at the forefront of the national agenda, founded the Society for the Renewal of Nature Conservation in Liberia in 1992, uniting SCNL members with the promise of keeping their message alive. Visiting Liberia even as the civil war spiraled out of control, Peal and fellow conservationists were unable to officially return home until 1998, when Peal resumed leadership of SCNL and jumpstarted efforts within the country once more.
Since restarting operations in 1998, SCNL has been widely recognized for its essential role in the protection of the Liberian environment. Among the awards and recognitions bestowed upon the organization is the Goldman Environmental Prize, awarded to Alexander Peal in 2000, as well as recognition as an official affiliate to major conservation organizations such as Birdlife International, Flora and Fauna International and the Zoological Society of Philadelphia.