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Crocodiles and Monkeys Seized at School Owner’s Home


Top: A collage of pictures of a crocodile and monkey seized by the Special Wildlife Investigation Unit now at the Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary

By James Harding Giahyue

  • The Special Wildlife Investigation Unit on Thursday seized crocodiles and monkeys at the home of a school owner
  • Crocodiles and monkeys are endangered species whose protection is mandated by law
  • The school owner said he runs a “mini zoo”
  • unauthorized possession of live animals violates the wildlife law, with a fine between US$100 and US$150 or a three-month sentence

MONROVIA – In the Bible, Noah gathered many animals in an ark to save them from a horrible flood, following God’s instructions.

But the owner of a school named after the prophet’s famous ship may have taken matters into his own hands.  

The Special Wildlife Investigation Unit on Monday seized seven crocodiles and two monkeys at the home of  Joseph Bestman, the owner of Noah’s Ark High School in Gardnersville Township.

The unit recovered the animals following an early morning combing of Bestman’s Gardnersville home, acting on a search and seizure warrant. Pictures on Facebook show armed officers deployed at the house.

In videos obtained from the unit, crocs can be seen in a concrete enclosure with darkened and rotting water. The monkeys appeared shaky in their metal cages as officers took them away.

“The hunting, trading, keeping as a pet, killing or rating of protected species is never acceptable in Liberia…,” the unit, which comprises the police Forestry Development Authority (FDA)/the Wildlife Crime Taskforce and the Liberia Revenue Authority, said in a statement.

Joseph Bestman. Picture credit: Facebook/Noah’s Ark High School

Bestman is being held at the headquarters of the Liberia National Police in Monrovia and would be sent to court, police spokesman Moses Carter said.

Efforts to speak to Bestman did not materialize up to writing time. However, Bestman told Prime FM earlier he had established the “mini zoo” to show students what the animals look like.

The unit works with other institutions such as the Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary and Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection. It is supported by Focused Conservation, an international charity that helps to bring wildlife poachers and traffickers to justice.

“The Liberian authorities together with their international partners will continue to work to bring wildlife traffickers to justice,” the statement added.

The animals were taken to Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary in Margibi, where a vet examined them, according to the unit.

The operation was the unit’s fourth in four months of its establishment. The first was the recovery of chimpanzees, the second was the detention of a pangolin scale trafficker, and the third was the arrest of an 85-year-old man with 26 live parrots.

The National Wildlife Conservation and Protected Area Management Law prohibits unauthorized possession of live animals, with a fine between US$100 and US$150 or a three-month prison term.

Crocodiles and monkeys are endangered species, protected by both Liberian and international law.

[O’Neil Philips contributed to this report]