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Found 6 results

  1. I’ve just been reading this interesting paper on black rhino genetics a subject that was evidently poorly understood, piecing together the genetic history of these animals has been made very difficult due to the rapid and catastrophic decline in their population. Extinctions, genetic erosion and conservation options for the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) It is interesting to see the distribution that they have gone with; I believe there is s till a question mark over the distribution of black rhinos in West Africa, my understanding is that there is really still no definitive proof for the presence of black rhinos further west than North Eastern Nigeria and the far west of Niger basically the region around Lake Chad. Whereas their map shows rhinos as far west as Benin and Burkina Faso, some other maps online show rhinos as far west as Senegal. The only actual evidence of black rhinos much further west than Lake Chad is some rhino spoor that the 19th century German explorer Heinrich Barth allegedly found on the east bank of the Niger River in 1853, I would guess somewhere between Niamey and ‘W’ National Park. Barth was familiar with rhinos having encountered them near Lake Chad but did not believe they occurred so far west he never saw the actual animal only its spoor. This is of course all sadly somewhat academic now as black rhinos are entirely extinct in Western and Central Africa now, the rhinos due to be reintroduced into Zakouma NP in Chad next year will be coming from South Africa I’m not sure if I’ve posted this before but here’s a paper on the distribution of the black rhino in West Africa. Historical distribution of the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis) in West Africa
  2. https://www.yahoo.com/news/benin-moves-save-part-west-africas-last-big-172445271--sector.html ~ This 2 June, 2017 article from Reuters explains the steps being taken by Benin to rehabilitate the W-Arli-Pendjari complex, described as the region's largest remaining expanse of savannah. Partnered with African Parks, a 10-year project includes placing security measures, preparing for ecotourism, and protecting existing habitat.
  3. A western roan antelope bull So, Serengeti Shall Not Die and long shall live the Okavango. Sure, I vote for that. But what of the lesser-known, truly unappreciated wilderness areas of a different Africa? The Anglo-centric safari world is practically ignorant of “French Africa”. It is easy to dismiss French Africa altogether in the name of safety if one imagines it as an undifferentiated pool of chaos and political instability. Stepping back from “Palin-ism”, however, there are gems to be found in French Africa. Benin is one such gem (by the way, do you even know how to pronounce it?). And Benin’s premier park, Parc National de la Pendjari, just may be the last intact, still-functioning West African savanna park that offers a safe and uncomplicated visit. Given the dearth of information on the park and on the logistics of a visit, the initial research required was painstaking. Once in touch with Jolinaiko Eco Tours (which provided the guides and the vehicle) and Pendjari Lodge, however, the planning was smooth sailing. With Jolinaiko’s old reliable Nissan Patrol driven by Ben Mensah (a Ghanaian who speaks primarily English and dabbles in French) and with Boris Medatinsa guiding (a native French-speaking Beninese who speaks good English as well), I stayed six nights at Pendjari Lodge in January 2015 (more detail on all the logistics later). Look at the distribution maps of any number of savanna mammalian species of Africa, and you will invariably see most of East and Southern Africa well blotted and a narrow band of blot from Sudan/Chad/CAR extending west to Senegal. This narrow band is pinched between the southerly tropical breezes of the Congolese Forest/Atlantic Ocean and the desiccating northerly blasts from the Sahara Desert, resulting in a perfect “tweener” climate accommodating savanna biomes similar to those in East and Southern Africa. Numerous physical barriers (such as the highlands of Cameroon) to terrestrial animals along this narrow band served to separate the gene pools of these animals, creating morphological differences among same species – resulting in the familiar species such as elephant, buffalo, lion, etc., looking a bit funny (?) in the heart of West Africa. Buffalo Pendjari National Park is part of the much larger WAP (W, Arli (sometimes “Arly”) and Pendjari) complex spanning Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger. Pendjari lies within the Sudan-Guinea savanna zone and is characterized by densely wooded, tall grass savanna and open floodplains on poor soil – comparable to the miombo woodlands and dambo grasslands of Zambia or Tanzania. The seasons are reversed in Pendjari, however, with the dry season lasting from November to April. The mythical Harmattan winds blow from the Sahara Desert to the Gulf of Guinea between December and February, producing variably milky skies in their path. And although its intensity wanes by the time it reaches southern Benin, Harmattan is responsible for a thin layer of fine dust on the floors of the seaside hotels in Cotonou, the commercial capitol of Benin located on the Gulf. A safari to Pendjari invariably commences at Natitingou, a northern outpost reachable from Contonou in a full day’s drive. “Nati” is a bustling town, the last of the kind before open space unfolds to the north. (Maun, Botswana was once Nati-like, I imagine.) The road from there to Pendjari skirts the Atacora Mountains, which are the source of the Pendjari River. The unassuming park entrance at Batia is reached in two hours from Nati, with another 60km to go to Pendjari Lodge. Pendjari Lodge (not to be confused with Pendjari Hotel, which is an old but still usable government-run establishment on the Pendjari River) is ideally situated between two primary dry season watering spots: (1) the Pendjari River and its various lagoon offshoots; and (2) Mare Bali (“Mare” is French for pond), which is a small sump area lagoon that holds water all year. As a practical matter, nearly all game drives in Pendjari occur on the quasi-circular circuit encompassing Pendjari Lodge, Mare Fogou/Mare Diwouni, Mare Sacrée/Mare Canard, Mare Yangouali and Mare Bali (see map below). Map of the park hanging from the mess area of Pendjari Lodge (South of Mare Bali, there are no watering points and thus scant game; east of Mare Fogou, the roads are impassable in spots; and west of Mare Yangouali, the game is skittish due to the general lack of vehicle traffic.) At the start of each game drive, a decision is made whether to push northward toward the Pendjari River and the lagoons or head south toward Mare Bali. Either way, thick Combretum/Terminalia scrub for the first several kilometers gives way to more open woodland. Northbound from the lodge, the landscape opens up decidedly near the Pendjari River, where western kobs, warthogs and black crowned cranes forage on the floodplains dotted with baobab trees. Elephants seem to prefer this better-watered area more so than the south. Southbound from the lodge, the road passes a few hills on the way to Mare Bali, where the thirsty animals and birds of the dry interior gather. There is an observation deck at Mare Bali, and countless hours can be spent observing hippos, crocodiles and western kobs, along with a multitude of water-loving birds. A typical scene at Mare Bali -- a female western kob watering with crocodiles around Black crowned cranes on a floodplain near Mare Fogou
  4. http://www.birdlife.org/worldwide/news/africa%E2%80%99s-vultures-are-sliding-towards-extinction-warns-birdlife The main causes of a drop in vulture populations appears to be threefold: 1. primarily the indiscriminate poisoning of vultures – a by-product of people trying to deliberately eradicate mammalian predators of livestock with the poisoned carcasses or baits inadvertently attracting vultures. 2. use of vulture body parts in traditional medicine. 3. poachers deliberately targeting the birds to avoid them giving away the presence of their illegally killed big game carcases, such as rhinos or elephants. e.g. The Ruppell's vulture may no longer occur in Nigeria, is extinct in Kasungu and Liwonde National Park (Malawi), and surveys in West Africa indicate a drop in species abundance from 61.3 birds per 100 kmsq to 2.5 birds per 100 kmsq.
  5. This is the result of an IUNCN report available on the following link. It is said: The full report is available here: https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/SSC-OP-054.pdf And the article on the following link: http://iucn.org/about/work/programmes/species/news/?21509/West-and-Central-Africas-wildlife-in-trouble-shows-new-IUCN-report
  6. I traveled to Ghana in October 2014 and while there, I visited Mole National Park for three days. I’d been very keen to visit Mole since my first trip to Ghana in 2011. It’s the most well developed national park in the country, and the website states that they have many animal species, including elephant, hippo, buffalo, various antelope species, baboon, several monkey species, and others. In 1958 the park’s lands were set aside as a wildlife refuge and in 1971 the remaining small human population was relocated and the area was designated as a national park. The park occupies an area of approximately 4840 square kilometers. Poaching is a problem, with poachers going 50 km within the park boundaries. The government does not adequately fund the park and there are not enough rangers to patrol the area. As an example, the Wikipedia page on Mole, updated in April 2014, states that the elephant herd numbers 800. However, the ranger that led the safari tour I took stated that the most recent count was 440 elephants. The website for the Mole Motel states there are also leopards and lions within the park; while this may be true, there have not been any sightings of these species in over ten years, according to the ranger. Mole is located in the Gonja region of Northern Ghana, the nearest town being Larabanga, and the nearest place to get public transportation to the park being Tamale (about 146 km away). The main visitor area and hotel are on an escarpment that overlooks one of the large watering holes. My partner and I stayed in the Mole Motel, which is the only lodging option available at this time. There is also a campsite if you want to brave the baboons. An American owned company is in process of building an eco-lodge within the park boundaries; this will be a private concession and will no doubt be much nicer accommodations than the government-run Mole Motel. Sadly, the Mole Motel looks like it hasn’t been maintained in decades. The workers were bemoaning the fact that the new eco-lodge will take away business. The Mole Motel prices are rather steep for what you get as well. We paid 150 cedis for an air conditioned room (larger than what we needed but the only one available) – about 50 USD per night. Personally I kind of like “funky” lodging and this was pretty “funky” – the water was turned off at dusk (there were three large containers of water for flushing the toilet); the curtains were rotting away from lack of washing, the air conditioning kept going off and on due to the rolling blackouts in the whole country. Speaking of baboons, one night we were awoken by loud footsteps running on the roof and the door being shaken back and forth – a group of baboons (a congress? A troop?) was trying to break in to the room! It was a little freaky. Then the next day, baboons attacked a lady right outside the hotel – she wasn’t hurt but was pretty shaken up. They also apparently break into the hotel kitchen from time to time and steal food. There were also monkeys hanging around the hotel, looking for ways to break into vehicles… We saw Patas and Green monkeys; the Patas monkeys were more common and gregarious and the Green monkeys stayed back in the bush and were not so easy to see. There were also lots of warthogs, both close to the hotel/visitor area, and out in the bush. I had never seen a warthog close up and I found the way they kneel down and scuffle along on their knees to eat quite endearing. We were at Mole at the tail end of the rainy season, which means that the animals can easily get water out in the bush, so they are less likely to use the watering holes in open areas where they can be seen. If you want to see elephants, the best time to go is during the dry season (November through March) when the elephants sometimes come right into the visitor’s center. I didn’t see any elephants when was there. However, the group that took the afternoon safari saw one elephant. According to the guide, the herd of 440 elephants travels back and forth between Mole Park and southern Burkina Faso. I was not able to find out the subspecies of elephant making up the herd (Savannah or Forest African Elephant). The most prominent animals were several species of antelope – kob, roan, waterbuck, and bushbuck. According to Wikipedia, Mole is a primary reserve area for antelope species. We saw numerous species of birds; unfortunately I don’t have any good photos. The largest bird we saw was a saddle-billed stork; quite an impressive bird! There are several ways you can view wildlife at Mole. There’s a lovely viewing area overlooking one of the large watering holes and an open expanse of grassland in the visitor’s center complex. You can take a guided hike on a couple of different trails, each of which cover several miles out into the bush and the open grasslands. Or, you can go on a safari vehicle that will drive out onto roads that cut through the bush. The weather when we were at Mole was very hot and humid (in the 90s F) and a real bonus was being able to relax in the swimming pool in the afternoons. The food at the hotel restaurant was pretty basic and also rather pricey for the quality. They did a decent job with typical Ghanaian fare. One of the highlights of the visit to Mole was our hiking guide inviting us to have dinner at the staff canteen (his wife was the cook). Two of our companions were vegetarian and they ordered what must have sounded rather strange to the ranger’s wife (beans and boiled eggs) – but she cooked it very well and we all enjoyed it! As previously mentioned, it is possible to get to Mole by public transportation (taxi or tro-tro – a tro-tro being essentially a terribly overcrowded minivan) that could be accessed from Tamale. You can fly from Accra (the capital) to Tamale. So potentially you could get to the park even if you didn’t have a vehicle to drive. To drive to Mole from Accra is a pretty straight shot north through Kumasi (the second largest city in the country). The roads are a bit rough in places but the roads leading into the park from Larabanga are quite good. My partner has made the trip into Mole numerous times and said that it’s only been recently that the roads are being graded and paved; in the past the short distance into the park took many hours of slowly dodging potholes. The area of Ghana in which the park is located is interesting to visit from a cultural perspective also. Larabanga’s claim to fame is the oldest mosque in Ghana, built in the 1400s and still used for worship. There’s also a “witch village” not too far away – a sort of concentration camp to which people accused of witchcraft are banished. The villages in the northern part of the country are the traditional round mud and thatched roof buildings and are very picturesque. All in all I think Mole National Park is a place worth visiting. I would definitely go there during the dry season though, when the animals are more visible.

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