Pendjari National Park, Benin
Pendjari is a unique national park for Western Africa, where a large number of fauna species can be observed with the same abundance and density as many of the Eastern African parks. In its conservatory role, Park Penjari protects a wide variety of plants, mammals and birds. The park represents a sound ecological example of the ecosystems in Benin.
Named for the Pendjari River, the national park is known for its wildlife, including elephants, monkeys, lions, hippopotamuses, buffalo and various antelopes and most prominently birds. Established in 1961 as a hunting area, during the colonial administration, the Pendjari Biosphere Reserves is nowadays part of the best preserved area of WAPOK (W-Arli-Pendjari ecosystem). In 1986, the change in status as a MAB Biosphere Reserve made the park one of the first Biosphere Reserves (Biosphere reserves are sites established by countries and recognized under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme to promote sustainable development based on local community efforts and sound science) and in 2007 it became a Ramsar site (Ramsar sites are wetlands recognised by the Ramsar convention as having international importance.)
The park was funded by the German cooperation for many years (GTZ and KWF) and the French Global Environment Facility (1 M €) The park is managed by the Direction of Pendjari National Park an administrative organisation of the National Center for Management of Wildlife Reserves in Benin.
Size and Location:
The Pendjari National Park (French: Parc National de la Pandjari) lies in north western Benin, adjoining the Arli National Park in Burkina Faso. It has an area of 2755 square kilometres. The park is part of the WAP complex (W-Arli-Pendjari) which is a vast protected area in Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger.
Fauna and Flora:
The park is in the form of a vast extremely flat peneplain with an altitude ranging from 150 to 200 m. The peneplain is bordered to the south by a mountain range Ataroka and north and east by the river Pendjari. A second mountain chain, Buem, smaller and parallel to the first lies within the Park.
The Pendjari River is 300 km total in length with approximately 200km in the National Pendjari Park. It has a low flow in the dry season and dries up in several places. There are many ponds/lakes formed from the main river bed. However, other permanent lakes occupy the side channels of the Pendjari River.
The rocky cliffs of the area are sparsely wooded with Burkea africana, Detarium microcarpum, Lannea acida, Sterculia setigera and Combretum ghasalense. On the deep soils of some of the summits and the Atakora escarpment one finds a greater variety of plant species with Isoberlina doka and Afzelia africana. The Pendjari River has an impressive gallery forest. The park includes both Sudan and Northern Guinea savannas, with areas of grassland dominated by Acacia sieberiana and Mitragyna inermis or Terminalia macroptera.
The park is home to four of the Big Five: lion, african elephant, buffalo and leopard. It is also home to endangered species such as cheetah, topi, giant pangolin, Lycaon and the Jabiru Senegal. There is also otter, crocodile and hippo and kob, hartebeest, Red-flanked Duiker, bushbuck, sable antelope, warthog, waterbuck duiker, reedbuck and waterbuck reed, the Oribi, the Baboon Anubis or baboon, Monkey green, Patas, etc..
The Park is renowned for its abundance of birds with some 300 different species in total. Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) and Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) are occasionally recorded and there are a few isolated records for Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotus). Fox Kestrel (Falco alopex) is not uncommon, while the African Swallow-tailed Kite (Chelictinia riocourii) is a not uncommon dry season visitor. The Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) has also been recorded here. BirdLife notes that "the Pendjari is notable for large conspicuous species such as African Openbill Stork (Anastomus lamelligerus), Abdim's Stork (Ciconia abdimii), Saddle-billed Stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis), and seasonally, flocks of up to 60 European White Stork (Ciconia ciconia). The African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) and Pel's Fishing-owl (Scotopelia peli) can also be found." Grey Tit-flycatcher (Myioparus plumbeus) has been recorded as well as several other species of the undergrowth. White-throated Greenbul (Phyllastrephus albigularis) has been recorded at Tanguiéta and the White-throated Francolin (Francolinus albogularis), a rare resident, has been spotted in farmland south of Natitingou. South of the park there is a large semi-protected zone known in French as La zone cygnetique de la Pendjari where a number of other species have been spotted.
There are 62 species of fish from 21 families. Reptiles include Nile crocodile, Nile monitor lizard, snake oil, common agama, lizard bushes, skink, and Seba python.
Threats and solutions
The area is currently at risk from a number of threats including agricultural encroachment, poaching, uncontrolled bushfires, water pollution, climate change and unsustainable timber harvesting.
When the Park became a protected area, the hunting zone profited only to outsiders. This caused much resentment among the local population, creating conflict with the park authorities and smuggling and agricultural encroachment prevented the protection of the environment. The Pendjari National Park Project reversed this situation, offering jobs to local communities, game meat is sold by the villagers, profits from tourism are directly reinjected in the local economy and local authorities are directly implicated in all decisions taken in or around the protected area.