The Pan Verus Project was started by Sarah Bell, a current member of the Oxford Wildlife Trade Research Group and a PhD Candidate at Oxford Brookes University.
After her first visit to Sierra Leone in May 2014, at the very start of the Ebola epidemic, Sarah Bell became intrigued by the cultural shift she saw happening in Sierra Leone during the epidemic. When returning to Sierra Leone in 2017 she visited Outamba Kilimi National Park she found the ecology of the park fascinating and under threat from agriculture, hunting, and the gathering of plants. But she knew that simply enforcing the no-hunting and no-farming laws would not be realistic. Since the Ebola epidemic Sierra Leone has faced massive food insecurity and an increased distrust of Western medicine. The people are using the park to survive, but if a cheaper and more efficient alternative to the park’s resources can be found, then the park can continue to flourish as an important habitat transition zone.
She hopes that the Pan Verus Project can encourage cross-disciplinary research which will involve cultural understanding of the problems the people of Sierra Leone face and how to help solve them with minimal environmental impact.