Game Warden

West Africa’s best wildlife parks

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Reports www.lonelyplanet.com

 

But have you heard of Mole, Pendjari and Waza? These wildlife reserves are some of the finest in West Africa – they may not be as famous but the wildlife is just as diverse, safaris cost a fraction of those in eastern and southern Africa and you’re unlikely to be bothered by crowds. Here are our top five blissfully low-key West African parks.

 

To read the full article click here.

 

I think some Safaritalkers have visited some of the parks mentioned... ;)

 

Have you been to any of them?

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I haven’t been to any of these parks but I have heard of them I first came across Mole and Pendjari in a WWF book The Wildlife Parks of Africa by Nicholas Luard published in 1985. Curiously Waza NP isn’t in this book I’m not sure why, all the birding tours of Cameroon go there which is the main reason I know a little bit about Waza.

 

So I’m afraid I have to take issue with this statement

the wildlife is just as diverse

 

It isn't, the Sahel region of West Africa where these three parks are located historically has never supported the diversity of large herbivores that you find on the savannahs of Eastern or Southern Africa. A lot of familiar animals just don’t occur in West Africa at all most notably zebras, wildebeest, impalas, sable and kudu (though greater kudu do occur in Central Africa) also rhinos never occurred much further west than Lake Chad. So to suggest that these western parks have the same diversity of wildlife as the more famous eastern and southern parks simply isn’t true.

 

Other than reading birding reports on Cameroon and Ghana I haven’t paid too much attention to West Africa I guess partly because I’ve tended to assume that much of the wildlife has been poached out. However a little while ago I came across a set of photos taken in Pendjari and posted on Flickr and was amazed as I hadn’t realised that there was anywhere left in West Africa that still had so much wildlife. Looking through the photos I thought I think I need to find out a little bit more about Pendjari this looks like a really interesting place.

 

Reading the article Twilight of the Western Lions that @@Paolo posted it mentioned that one problem is that wildlife tourism in West Africa is still in its infancy and therefore there isn’t the incentive to protect lions that there is in Eastern or Southern Africa. This made me wonder just how many people actually do visit these parks and what can be done to encourage more wildlife tourism in West Africa? As I like to promote off the beaten track destinations especially when I read about yet another new lodge being built somewhere in the Mara, so I felt inspired to try and write something about these parks even though I haven’t visited any of them.

 

Of the three parks Mole in Ghana, Pendjari in Benin and Waza in Cameroon, Pendjari is the best managed and protected and as a result is regarded as the best park in West Africa.

 

Pendjari National Park/Biosphere Reserve

 

Named after the Pendjari River this park near the northern end of the Atacora Mts in the northwest of Benin on the border with Burkina Faso is predominantly a mixture of dry savannah woodland, grassland and marsh. At roughly 275,500ha in size Pendjari is almost twice the size of the Masai Mara Reserve. Pendjari National Park/Biosphere Reserve forms part of a much larger protected area known as The WAP comprising ‘W’ NP in Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger and Arli NP in Burkina which adjoins Pendjari along with various surrounding reserves. The WAP is one of the largest and most important protected areas in West Africa. Unlike in many other Western parks the wildlife in Pendjari is well protected making it probably the best place to see big game in West Africa.

Wildlife in Pendjari

 

Some of the principal mammals include

 

Herbivores: elephants, hippos, buffalos (savannah x forest), roan, western hartebeest, korrigum (topi), Buffon’s kob, Bohor reedbuck, Defassa waterbuck, bushbuck, oribi, common duiker and common warthog.

 

Primates: patas monkeys, tantalus monkeys, olive baboons and Senegal galagos.

 

Carnivores: include lions, leopards, cheetahs, servals, caracals, wild cats, civet, common & blotched genet, ratels, spotted hyaenas, common & side-striped jackals and wild dogs?

 

Wild dogs are generally thought to be extinct however it’s possible that they may still occur somewhere in the WAP

 

Cheetahs though not common are seen, leopards I would guess are more common but very seldom seen

 

Lions Pendjari actually supports a population of between 70-100 lions these lions along with others in the WAP make up the largest and most important surviving population of lions in West Africa. This makes Pendjari probably the best place to see lions in West Africa.

 

The park also has around 300 species of birds

 

As can be seen from the above list of mammals when it comes to herbivores the park is home to just 13 species this is only about half the number that can be found in most Eastern and Southern parks. So to say that Pendjari (or any these other western parks) is just as diverse as those in Eastern or Southern Africa simply isn’t true. I would guess that the animals aren’t quite as abundant either, amongst all the accounts of Pendjari that I’ve read written by visitors to the park the consensus seems to be that “it isn’t East Africa”. Of course some of these people writing about Pendjari probably haven’t been to either Eastern or Southern Africa, so their observations may not be based on experience but even so the game viewing clearly isn’t as good.

 

This is really the problem I’m sure that Pendjari is well worth visiting but why would you go there when you could go to the Mara, the Serengeti, Ruaha, Luangwa etc?

 

Even the best Western parks simply can’t compete in terms of game viewing with those in Southern and Eastern Africa, besides I would guess not many here had even heard of Pendjari as it isn’t exactly on the tourist map so is it any wonder that so few people go there (or to these other parks)?

 

At this point it occurred to me that I don’t actually know how many people do visit Pendjari or other Western parks like Mole and how visitor numbers compare to the parks of Eastern and Southern Africa. So I decided to hold off from posting anything while I tried to search the web for some figures, I didn’t want to state that no one visits Pendjari if that’s not actually the case. Eventually I did manage to find a few figures so I decided after a bit of re-writing to post this to start things off before adding some more info later.

 

For anyone who likes to sign petitions Stop the destruction of the Pendjari National Park!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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@@inyathi

 

From what I know, itis true that the Cameroon Highlands have historically proved a barrier to species diversity, and, as a result, what is known as West Sudanian Savanna (to the west of the Cameroon Highlands, thus including Pendjary, Mole, Arly, WAP etc...) has always been less diverse in terms of wildlife than other savanna biomes in Africa - including East Sudanian Savanna (Chad, Central African Republic, South Sudan) which until recently hosted some of the largest animal concentrations on the continent.

 

(Over 300,000 elephants roamed the triangle made by SE Chad, northern CAR and SW Sudan in the 1970s, and still in 1980 CAR had the third largest black rhino population in Africa).

 

As far as I can see, mammal lists in southern Chad and CAR parks is longer than, say, Pendjari, including among others, Kordofan Giraffe, Tiang, Greater Kudu, Red-fronted Gazelle, Lelwel's Hartebeest, Lord Derby's (Giant) Eland etc...

 

Out of the three parks mentioned in that article (Mole, Pendjari and Waza), Pendjari is probably the best managed, even if Waza would probably be the most interesting, since Roan seems to be the dominant ungulate.

 

I would in part disagree with your statement that with 13 herbivores (9 antelopes) Pendjari only host half the species occurring in most parks in East and southern Africa. Actually, the park hosting the most number of antelope species in Africa is Kafue, with 21 species.

 

And the number of antelope species you find in Pendjari (according to that list) is, for example, still higher than, say, in Lower Zambezi or Mana Pools.

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Thanks @@Paolo I was really referring to all herbivores (though I suppose technically pigs are omnivores) rather than just antelopes because this is where the biggest difference in diversity lies between the wildlife of the Western savannahs and those of the East and South. In an old guide book to the national parks of East Africa the mammals list for the Masai Mara has 28 species (inc. roan) of which 19 are antelopes, the total for Kafue should also be 28 species I think, but I've included black rhinos which I know are extinct. I suppose what I should have said is that 13 species is around half the average number you’d find in an Eastern or Southern park after all you might well combine Lower Zambezi with Kafue or Mana with Hwange. You could combine Pendjari with ‘W’ but the only extra species you might gain is red-fronted gazelle. Nicholas Luard in his book include these gazelles on the Pendjari list but Mammals of Africa states that they’ve never been recorded in Pendjari or anywhere in Benin though they do occur in the Burkina and Niger sections of ‘W’ so it’s likely that they do also occur in the Benin section.

 

 

 

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When I started writing I was thinking I would be amazed if Pendjari gets anything like enough visitors, it surely can’t get even a fraction of the numbers that visit the much better known parks of Eastern or Southern Africa. After all in the UK at least Benin and Pendjari really aren’t on the tourist map or certainly not on the safari map.

 

If I look at all the advertisements for wildlife travel that for example regularly appear in BBC Wildlife magazine I won’t find a single mention of Benin. If I look at the websites of any of the many travel agents that claim to be experts on Africa like Africa Travel Resource for example, West Africa as a whole never mind Benin isn’t even on their destinations map. The only companies in the UK that to my knowledge offer trips to Benin are overland companies and many of the itineraries I’ve looked at don’t actually include Pendjari. If I really want to go on safari but don’t know which country to go to I’m hardly going to choose Benin if no one ever suggests it to me and I’m not going to enquire about safaris to Pendjari if I’ve never heard of the place

 

For comparison I tried searching in French since Benin is Francophone but the results really weren’t that different most of the French companies that I looked at were really only offering safaris to Eastern and Southern Africa. I should point out that I searched for safaris en Afrique rather than for Benin specifically because I just wanted to find regular French travel agents that offer safaris and see how many offer Benin. Of the ones I looked at I did find some West African Trips though not I think a Benin tour, when I actually searched specifically for Benin then I did find a Pendjari photo tour though most of what came up were hunting trips as a lot of hunting goes on around Pendjari.

 

I was then going to say is it any wonder so few people visit the park but I thought if possible I’d better first find out just how many actually do.

 

 

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After much searching I eventually came up with a figure of 7,000 visitors a yr, apparently the plan is to try and increase this to 10,000 even then this is a pretty small number compared to the 290,000 visitors I’ve seen quoted for the Masai Mara. However the Mara is maybe not the best comparison as it is arguably much too crowded now. I would think that 7,000-10,000 is actually many more than ever visit either Katavi or Kafue for example. Finding accurate figures is not too easy, I have seen a figure of 2,500 quoted several times for Ruaha but this is much too low to be up to date given how much accommodation there is now inside and outside Ruaha. I have also found a figure of 7,654 quoted for between June 2002 and July 2003 that would seem more realistic and there weren’t quite so many camps back then so the real figure must be a somewhat higher. For South Luangwa I found a figure of 30,000 which would seem about right. So while 7,000 or even 10,000 for Pendjari is not a huge number of people it doesn’t actually seem that bad for somewhere that isn’t really on the tourist map.

 

I would think that it shouldn’t be too difficult to increase the numbers to 10,000 and in fact even exceed that number. One thing which I suppose may be a problem for Pendjari is that although it’s in Benin it is actually much closer to Niamey in Niger or Ouagadougou in Burkina than it is to the political or financial capitals of Benin Porto Novo and Cotonou. From Cotonou to Pendjari is I think a 8-9hr drive on what I would guess are not the best roads, as a result a lot of visitors to Benin don’t go to Pendjari because it’s just too far. I suspect that a good percentage of those that do are backpackers, overlanders and expats who maybe don’t mind the long drive quite so much but really to attract more tourists especially the wealthier ones they need to improve the roads and cut down the journey time significantly. I imagine you could probably fly up to the town of Natitingou which is just 1.5 hrs from the park as there is an airport of sorts there or maybe to the town of Porga there don’t seem to be any airstrips in the park.

 

The park may not be able to compete in terms of game viewing with better known parks in the East and South but it can perhaps compete on price. While some of the hotels look pretty average in the centre of the park is a tented camp Pendjari Lodge run by a French couple that looks nice enough from the photos and from what I can see not too different to a few camps I’ve stayed in. How the standard actually compares to camps in say Tanzania I wouldn’t know but the rates are extremely cheap by comparison. So for anyone who loves being out in the bush if you want to get away from the crowds without having to pay loads of money for the privilege as long as you don’t mind that the game viewing isn’t the best then I think this could be great place to stay. Add in a bit of fly camping and some proper walking (which doesn’t seem to be on offer in Pendjari) and it really would be great. In fact I think that a serious walking and camping operation could put Pendjari on the map, the park may not have the diversity of somewhere like Ruaha or Luangwa but I think there are enough animals and with the chance to encounter elephants, buffalos or lions I don’t think it would matter.

 

Having said that one of the problems for Pendjari is that there isn’t that much else in Benin wildlife wise the only other National Park is the Benin section of ‘W’ however while ‘W’ is also a good park the Benin section is the least accessible, least developed part. There’s almost no infrastructure with very few roads so it’s very difficult to get in or get around, to visit ‘W’ you really have to go to the Burkina or Niger sections of the park. Unless you’re going on to Burkina or Niger there isn’t really much else to do in the north after visiting Pendjari, except perhaps walking in the Atacora Mts which would be interesting. Although the wildlife is basically the same if ‘W’ was opened up a little bit and there were some camps there then that might make a big difference and I’m sure it would also be another great place for walking.

 

Benin doesn’t have that much other wildlife mainly because it sits right in the middle of the so called ‘Dahomey Gap’ this is the natural break between the western edge of the Congo rainforest somewhere in Nigeria and the eastern edge of the Upper Guinea Rainforest to the west over in Ghana. As a result there is naturally very little actual rainforest in Benin and therefore there are none of the real rainforest birds that would put Benin on the birding map, the predominant habitat throughout is savannah and all of the savannah birds can be readily seen in other countries. Despite the absence of real rainforest, in the south there are actually a few forest monkeys including the very rare red-bellied monkey or ‘zinkaka’ which is endemic to Eastern Togo, Benin and Western Nigeria. It’s possible to go and look for these monkeys in the Forêt du Lama though what the chances of seeing one are I’m not sure. Three other monkeys that occur in Benin mona monkey, Geoffroy’s pied colobus and olive colobus can be seen in Ghana. Otherwise there is quite a bit of history in Benin notably in the old city of Abomey where there are a number of royal palaces, as they don’t allow photography inside the palaces there aren’t a lot of photos on the web so I’m not sure how impressive they really are. There are also other historical and cultural attractions relating to slavery and Voodoo that bring visitors to Benin.

 

I have found a Benin tour that visits both Pendjari and the Forêt du Lama though it doesn’t include Abomey, Benin Aventure though it looks like they could probably adjust the itinerary. Based on what they say I guess if you do the full two week trip taking in both the north and south of Benin then it works better if you start in Ouagadougou and finish in Cotonou, in which case if time permits you could spend a little time in Burkina. Otherwise to do a trip like this starting and finishing in Cotonou you ideally need to be able to fly one way

 

When I started writing this I wasn’t that hopeful about wildlife tourism in West Africa and the future of parks like Pendjari but the more I’ve read the more optimistic I’ve become. I think that it should be perfectly possible to attract enough visitors to these places to make them really worth protecting. What makes me hopeful that Pendjari can attract many more visitors is that Mole NP in Ghana which hasn’t been so well looked after apparently receives over 16,000 visitors.

 

Ultimately the survival of western lions, other large carnivores and their prey in West Africa depends on the protection of parks like Pendjari and that surely depends on tourism which in turn depends on the protection of the animals.

 

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@@inyathi

 

A lot of good points.

 

Visitors numbers are always difficult to obtain, and then, as you say, there are visitors and visitors. However, to give an idea, I have been told by EWCP that last year 4,000 tourists have visited the Bale Mountains, so Pendjari is not doing bad in this respect.

 

A different, more poignant question would be : how much revenue Pendjari generates? I suspect not much, since I assume that very few of those visitors are high value tourists.

 

As to accessibility, since Pendjari is surrounded by hunting concessions, there should be no shortage of landing strips, so chartering a plane should be pretty straightforward (and certainly the one way of travel I would consider).

 

By he way, Waza in Cameroon (but is Cameroon West Africa? i have some doubts) has the same situation, since the closest international airport is N'Djamena.

 

Speaking of Cameroon, obviously that country has much more to offer in terms of diversity, since it has mountains, rainforests, Sudanian savannas, Sahelian savannas etc.... And wildlife ranging from Lord Derby's Eland to Western Lowland Gorilla. But, as I said, I doubt that Cameroon can be considered as West Africa proper.

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@@inyathi

 

Re number of mammal species: I have not checked, but I assume that figures are higher than those you mention: if you think that Kafue has 21 antelope species, once you include carnivores, rodents, primates, pigs etc... It will be well over 28.

 

Also, not sure whether it would be correct to combine parks such as Lower Zambezi and Kafue in your example. By the same token you could combine Pendjari or Mole with a rainforest park (with all its duikers and forest dwelling mammals).

 

Having said that, there is no doubt that the savanna biomes in West Africa host less species of herbivores than those in East, Southern or even Central Africa.

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Posted (edited)

What a great thread, @@inyathi

 

Very good to learn about West Africa. What about Mali? Is that considered purely Sahelian and are there any parks or notable wildlife populations there?

Edited by Sangeeta

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Paolo, on 23 Jul 2013 - 11:11 PM, said:

@@inyathi

 

Re number of mammal species: I have not checked, but I assume that figures are higher than those you mention: if you think that Kafue has 21 antelope species, once you include carnivores, rodents, primates, pigs etc... It will be well over 28.

 

@@Paolo

 

Yes of course but I was only thinking of the larger more conspicuous mammals that would be most obvious to the general visitor I didn’t include carnivores because originally the carnivore species in the West (those of most interest to tourists) would have been much the same as elsewhere. Most tourists aren't interested in the small fry like rodents, people aren't going to flock to Ndutu if I say that on my last Tanzanian trip I saw lots of unstriped grass mice there. :D So that's why I chose just to count only Elephants and ungulates because I think if someone visited the Mara and then went to Pendjari it’s the difference in the numbers and diversity of these animals that would be most obvious. I was purely thinking in terms of tourist appeal and what the average tourist is likely to see for their money, some people might feel that they’d rather go somewhere with more animals. Aside from wanting to point out that the Lonely Planet article was being misleading I was just using the diversity of large mammals as a crude measure of tourist appeal. Obviously there are lots of other factors to consider when deciding which parks or countries to visit other than just the diversity of big game or the quality of the game viewing.

 

 

Also, not sure whether it would be correct to combine parks such as Lower Zambezi and Kafue in your example. By the same token you could combine Pendjari or Mole with a rainforest park (with all its duikers and forest dwelling mammals).

 

 

I’m sorry I should have phrased what I said a bit better, what I meant was if you go on safari to Zambia then you can visit both Lower Zambezi and Kafue and other parks for that matter. So while in terms of mammal diversity Lower Zambezi may be comparable to Pendjari there are other national parks in Zambia which you can visit with a much higher diversity which is not the case in Benin. So overall you will see more animals on a Zambian safari than a Benin one.

 

When I went to Zambia some years ago I visited Kafue, Lower Zambezi, South Luangwa and Nyika in Malawi my total for all mammals was 52. There isn’t anywhere that I could realistically combine with Pendjari that would give me the chance to see anything like as many as 52 species. Even a trip around Ghana taking in the rainforests is unlikely to deliver anywhere near that number and besides the average tourist isn’t going to get too excited by the possibility of seeing half a dozen or more species of squirrels. :D Leaving aside all other considerations if you want a safari that is going to deliver both the best big game viewing and the most wildlife overall then you’d go to Zambia (or Kenya or Tanzania) and not to Benin or Ghana.

 

If you can afford to go on a Kenyan safari then assuming you've heard of Pendjari why would you go there instead after all to be honest with the exception of some of us here I don’t suppose most people planning a safari know or care what the difference between a topi a tsessebe a tiang or a korrigum is. :)

 

there is no doubt that the savannah biomes in West Africa host less species of herbivores than those in East, Southern or even Central Africa.

 

Therefore this must surely have some bearing on whether or not people would choose to visit West Africa on a Safari assuming that cost is not a major factor.

 

If I was going to Africa for the first time (ignoring birds) aside from obviously wanting to see the big five, plus lots of giraffes and zebras, seeing the big herds and some cheetahs and perhaps wild dogs would be my priority this would rule out Pendjari and Benin.

 

However after many safaris my priorities are now different, so since I’ve only seen 17 different species of squirrels in Africa so I’d have to choose Ghana over Zambia, well I need to get my money’s worth out of the Mammals of Africa. :D

 

 

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Thanks @@Sangeeta

 

I have looked at visiting Mali mainly because of my interest in African Music, but also for the history and culture generally I’ve always wanted to go to the Festival in Desert. Unfortunately the security situation has put paid to my chances of visiting any time soon, one reason why I haven’t already been to Mali is that there isn’t quite enough wildlife.

 

There are still approx 350 elephants in the Gourma region of the country these desert elephants are now the most northerly surviving elephants in Africa.

 

Thinking Big: The Secret of Survival among Mali’s Desert Elephants

 

Mali’s one major national park is Boucle de Baoule just northwest of Bamako but from everything I’ve read it looks like nearly all the game has been shot out and the park has been invaded by livestock and badly overgrazed. Adjoining the park to the south is the Fina Faunal Reserve where there may still be a few western giant eland but I’m not sure what else. Certainly lions and also western giraffes are extinct. It’s such a shame that Boucle de Baoule has been so trashed :angry: because until the war I think tourism was increasing in Mali thanks to all the history, and interesting culture including the famous Festival in the Desert and other music festivals. With so much to offer tourists it would be great to have a really good national park as well.

 

 

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@@inyathi

 

The German Wiki entry for Pendjari contains a little bit more info on tourism than the English one:

 

The number of visitors for 2008 is said to be 6500. Around 70 hunters in three neighbouring concessions apparently generate 2/3 of the park´s tourism revenues, said to be about EUR 220.000,-- for 2007 and 2008. This amount takes care of a third of the park´s financial requirements.

 

Nearly all visitors are locals, the number of foreignes going to the park is insignificant.

 

Unfortunately, the situation seems to have deteriorated as foreign development aid has been withdrawn last year. 20 elephants (out of 800) were poached in 2012

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Thanks @michael-ibkfo for that info that does confirm what I feared was probably the case and as @@Paolo says very few of those visitors will be high value tourists.

 

 

You probably saw the petition I posted earlier which originated in Germany and was about the foreign aid situation and the threat of poaching.

 

Another reason for wanting to write this is that it takes me back to the old hunting debate in which I as a reluctant defender of hunting I questioned the idea that photo tourism can generate more money than hunting. Some of those 70 hunters who go to Pendjari will be after lions; the prevailing view here would probably be that lion hunting is a very bad thing and yet unless something can be done to significantly increase Pendjari’s revenue from photo tourism, the survival of these western lions may very well depend on hunting.

 

 

My intention writing this was to draw attention to West Africa and maybe generate a little debate on how to get more tourists to visit and in particular more high value tourists, after all as I may have said already if West Africa’s best park doesn’t get enough tourists what hope is there for all the rest?

 

 

What can be done to stop other parks from ending up like Mali’s Boucle de Baoule or Comoe in Ivory Coast (more later) devoid of almost any large animals except livestock?

 

 

A bit about Ghana's Mole NP next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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@@michael-ibk

 

Thanks for those figures.

 

If true, they show that 70 hunters contribute to the conservation of Pendjari way more than 6,500 non hunters. Indeed trophy hunting has a role to play in conservation in less developed countries.

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@@inyathi

 

I think our posts (on the value brought by those 70 hunters) crossed...

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@@inyathi and @@Paolo - if the total lion population of Pendjari is only 70-100 individuals, I don't understand how they can be hunted sustainably. Given that hunters look for the big maned males, and given all the other problems these animals face anyway, how can this population possibly be expected to grow if prime males are shot for trophy? Does anyone have any data on how many of which animals are hunted in the neighboring concessions and the percentage revenue distribution to the park?

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Does the Thinking Big Mali link above work for everyone? Am having trouble opening it.

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The hunting quota is 3 lions per year across the 3 hunting blocks (well its 2 per 2 years per hunting block to be precise). I read a report from 2010-2011 that this represents 6% of male (adult+subadult population) and usually its a stretch to get 1-2 lions a year as they are very difficult to get by ( very low densities, very low number per group etc). The researchers managed 1 call per 5.5 calls they sent -though it was observed that adult males were higher in number in the hunting blocks than in the park ( total density, group size, total lions higher in the park than hunting blocks -park and 3 hunting blocks being of comparable size). Nothing indicated that only adult males ( above 4 years as per classification or above 6 as per Packer) are hunted but the report indicated one possibility is that sub adults are also hunted.

 

30% of the hunting revenues go to the nearby villages/local communities. The balance helps roughly a third of the park's expenses. A 3rd of the park's expenses comes from the 6500 tourists and the balance 3rd from government subsidies/sponsorships.

 

Not wanting to turn this into a hunting debate, but I would be very careful of extrapolating this into any other context without understanding more. One thing - most of this is supposedly local tourism and not foreigners- is that true for even the 65-70 hunters?

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I’m afraid I don’t know enough about the situation to know how the lion hunting is managed or even if it is really sustainable, I was really just making an observation that this is where a lot of the money comes from that keeps Pendjari afloat and ultimately the survival of Pendjari/WAP is vital for the survival of the western lion as they’re fairing so badly elsewhere.

 

 

@@Sangeeta The Thinking Big link works fine for me but if you can’t make it work you could try looking on the Save the Elephants website and see if you can find it there or if you type Gourma elephants into Google you might find some other interesting info.

 

 

On a lighter note while searching for more info on the park I came across a website for a company called Simba Safari Camps/Group. They appear to have a number of luxury camps/lodges around West Africa which look very nice including one called Simba Pendjari Camp although they describe it as being in the ‘W’ area. However the page is illustrated with a photo of a reticulated giraffe, western giraffes look quite different and in any case don’t occur in Benin, this seemed a little odd but not too unusual a lot of Indian websites have photos of all kinds of non Indian animals. Looking at their other camps I was surprised to see that they apparently have one in Sapo NP in Liberia I wouldn’t have expected to find any tourist camps in Liberia or maybe it’s actually in Borneo as there are two photos of Asian hornbills. When I then looked at their staff profiles page I nearly fell off my chair :D I don’t recognise any of the names but at least half of the faces look curiously familiar I can only assume that the entire website is a joke. Some here might even have been on safari with Bernie & Gloria or at least met one or both of them (@@kittykat23uk ?) though for some reason I can't believe anyone has been on safari with their guide at Simba Sapo an enthuiastic Aussie called Red Hogan see for yourselves.

 

 

Simba Safari Group

 

 

 

 

 

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I think the Gambian guide is probably quite Goodie...

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@@Anita

 

I would think that those hunters are foreigners. If you go to hunting websites, you see that "Benin Hunts" are fairly advertised. The PHs are generally French (either from France actually or former French colonies), but there are also Americans amongs the clients.

 

There is no way that a bunch of local hunters could foot such a sizeable bill.

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Another consideration: I might be wrong, but I think that - unlike other countries where big cats are hunted on a bait - in Benin it is purely tracking (and walking), which in all likelihood would render lion hunting much more difficult.

 

I am not advocating hunting western Africa lions (in my view, all big cat hunting should be banned everywhere), but it would seem that the amount of offtake due to trophy hunting is quite limited, and certainly not a threat comparable to poaching, habitata loss or human conflict.

 

Conversely, if trophy hunting was stopped in Benin now, it would prove to be a major disaster for both the wildlife and the ecosystem, marking the end of Pendjari and neighbouring faunal areas.

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I’m afraid I don’t know enough about the situation to know how the lion hunting is managed or even if it is really sustainable, I was really just making an observation that this is where a lot of the money comes from that keeps Pendjari afloat and ultimately the survival of Pendjari/WAP is vital for the survival of the western lion as they’re fairing so badly elsewhere.

@@Sangeeta The Thinking Big link works fine for me but if you can’t make it work you could try looking on the Save the Elephants website and see if you can find it there or if you type Gourma elephants into Google you might find some other interesting info.

 

On a lighter note while searching for more info on the park I came across a website for a company called Simba Safari Camps/Group. They appear to have a number of luxury camps/lodges around West Africa which look very nice including one called Simba Pendjari Camp although they describe it as being in the ‘W’ area. However the page is illustrated with a photo of a reticulated giraffe, western giraffes look quite different and in any case don’t occur in Benin, this seemed a little odd but not too unusual a lot of Indian websites have photos of all kinds of non Indian animals. Looking at their other camps I was surprised to see that they apparently have one in Sapo NP in Liberia I wouldn’t have expected to find any tourist camps in Liberia or maybe it’s actually in Borneo as there are two photos of Asian hornbills. When I then looked at their staff profiles page I nearly fell off my chair :D I don’t recognise any of the names but at least half of the faces look curiously familiar I can only assume that the entire website is a joke. Some here might even have been on safari with Bernie & Gloria or at least met one or both of them (@@kittykat23uk ?) though for some reason I can't believe anyone has been on safari with their guide at Simba Sapo an enthuiastic Aussie called Red Hogan see for yourselves.

Simba Safari Group

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Indeed, I have met Bernie and his wife as well as a few of their other guides... Sadly I don't think Red Hogan is with us any more.. :(

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Another consideration: I might be wrong, but I think that - unlike other countries where big cats are hunted on a bait - in Benin it is purely tracking (and walking), which in all likelihood would render lion hunting much more difficult.

I am not advocating hunting western Africa lions (in my view, all big cat hunting should be banned everywhere), but it would seem that the amount of offtake due to trophy hunting is quite limited, and certainly not a threat comparable to poaching, habitata loss or human conflict.

Conversely, if trophy hunting was stopped in Benin now, it would prove to be a major disaster for both the wildlife and the ecosystem, marking the end of Pendjari and neighbouring faunal areas.

I agree with you completely there. Infact the reason I asked if the hunters were foreign tourists is because it's clearly not a big cat destination and if they are foreign tourists, probably the old school ones who want the real wild experience and something different - A roan in Benin being a lot more valuable to them than a lion from Selous.

 

Sure tracking on foot would render it more difficult, but in general West African Lions have much lower density ( I think that report quoted density of around 1.7 lions per 100 sq km. )

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@@Anita

 

Conditions for hunters are very testing as well: blistering hot, with that nasty harmattan wind at times blowing from the north, and a lot of walking. Not for thefaint hearted.

 

I once met a PH in Tanzania, who told me how hunting Giant Eland (he used to hunt them in CAR) is by far the most physically demanding and mentally challenging of all the hunts. He said that regular hunts in Tanzania were a joke by comparison.

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