A brief presentation of Pendjari National Park

11 posts in this topic

Posted (edited)

Since African Parks took the management of Pendjari National Park, Benin, on 30th of May 2017, I have been reading a lot about the vast and underknown WAP complex, a large wilderness complex shared between Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger. We are usually more used with Austral and Eastern Africa safari destinations than Central and West Africa national parks and we know nearly nothing concerning these West destinations.


All started when @Paolo kindly sent me a French aerial survey of the park. I then understood why all my web resaerches in English were worthless. In these countries the oficial language is French so the big majority of the scientific papers and management documents of the WAP are all in French!


Pendjari National Park is a protected area located in Northern benin, at the frontier with Burkina Faseo. It is 2750 km2 national park inside a larger ecosystem including hunting blocks declared by Unesco as 5000 km2 biosphere reserve in 1986. The vegetation kind covering the area is called the Sudanian Savanna, which lies between the Guinean savanna (to the South) and the sahalian savana (to hte North). The productivity of this dense savanna is less than in Eastern and Southern Africa, which reason why the density of wildlife do not reach the levels we can find in the famous national parks of East Africa.


The park was named because of the Pendjari river which marks the boundary between Burkina and Benin, and delimits the Northern limit of the park. The Atakora range is located South to the park and offers impresive landscapes with high cliffs and typical Somba villages. The Mekrou is another perennial river West of the Park that delimits the frontier between Benin, Burkina and Niger further to the East. The Pendjari river belongs to the Volta basin while the Mekrou belongs to the Niger basin.


Pendjari is one of the protected areas created in 1954 under the French Colonial Administration. With the independance of Benin, Niger and Burkina Faso, the area was divided in several smaller entities. This 30.000 km2 larger area is called WAP for W-Arly-Pendjari and even sometimes WAPOK if the Oti Keran protected areas of Togo are included.


WAP is the most important protected area of West Africa along with Niokolo Koba (NK) in Senegal and Comoé in Ivory Coast. Contrary to these two last areas, the WAP complex is still in good shape. Niokolo Koba and Comoé large game populations

have suffered a steep decline because of illegal poaching, livestock encroachment, poor management and lack of funds. Even if NK and Comoé are world heritage sites, they did not receive the same atention by international partners than the WAP complex, this explains why WAP has always received better funding to put in place adequate management to conserve the wilderness.


Well, as said before, WAP is composed of several protected areas.


In Benin, the Pendjari National Park along with the huge Pendjari Hunting reserve (sub-divided into Batia and Porga hunting blocks) and the smaller Konkombri Hunting Reserve, sometimes also called Atakora game reserve (if included Mekrou Hunting reserve, but belonging to the W Park). All these protected areas are protected as a Biosphere Reserve as sais before.




To the Nort-East of the country, the W National Park is a 5000 km2 protected area located South to the Mekrou river. The Djona Hunting reserve and the Mekrou Hunting reserves respectively lie to the South and to the East of the park.

In Niger, The W National Park Niger was declared in 1996 as a world heritage site by the UNESCO. It is named by the very special the shape of the Niger river delimiting the Western boundary of the park. Tamou Game Reserve is located North to the Tapoa river to the Northern limit of the Park. On the Eastern side of the Niger river was declared the Dosso Partial Reserve, where little wildlife still remains today.

In Burkina Faso, there is a a very complex system of protected areas focusing on the Arly and the W National Parks.


The Burkina W National Park , along with the Nigerien and the Benin parts, are supposedly managed as a single protected area, which was established as a 10.000 km2 Transboundary Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO in 2002, and was the first of its kind in Africa at the time of its creation. 




The Arly block is divided into several hunting areas and game reserves with diferent categories of protection. The Arly National Park is not yet gazetted. It is composed of the Arly and Madjoari game reserves and is in fact managed as a national park. The most significant protected areas surrounding Arly are Singou, Pama and Konkoumbari game and hunting reserves.


Pendjari National Park was proposed as an extension of the W Niger heritage site in 2006 which was rejected by the UNESCO. The three countries were invited to re-asses the proposal and to ensure continuity between W Niger and Pendjari and to considere buffer areas. Plans are now ongoing to declare the whole WAP complex as an extension of the existing W Niger heritage site in 2017.




Arly a similar vegetation compared to Pendjari, but W receives less rains than the two former blocks (indeed the Northern end of Tamou Reserve is more likely considered as a Sahelian ecosystem with the typical tiger bushes). It seems that Pendjai-Arly did not suffer from the 70’s hard droughts impacting the region, which was not the case of W park. W Niger and Burkina now receives 100mm of rain less than during the 60’s.


We now understand that not all the entities forming the WAP receive the same category of protection. Thus they do not all receive the same fundings and some areas have received more atention than others with the consequence of unequal conservation perforances throughout the block.


There are two sperate, marked regimes in the region: a a rainy season followed by a long dry season. During the rainy season some grasslands are partially flooded along the Pendjari river, which appears to be the perfect habitat for Buffon kobs during the dry season. The rainy season also fills many ponds along the Pendjari that start to dry from October and at the climax very few ponds still remains with water. Some famous ponds are Bori, Bali, Marre sacrée… Wildlife concentrate around these last water points during the dry season. The Pendjari and the Mekrou rivers are perrenial, the other rivers dry up at the end of the dry season.


The Unesco heritage site declaration of W Niger and the latter declaration of W Transboundary Biosphere reserve and Pendjari Biosphere Reserve helped these areas to receive important fundings from international donors in the last two decades.


In W National Park, the first important project called ECOPAS was set up European Union from 2001 to 2008 to recover the park wildlife and to coordinate the three countries administration. The first fase of the project (2001-2005) had a budget of 9 million USD equillay shared by the three countries for a period of 5 years. During the project ECOPAS, the total park budget increased to 5,7 MUSD per year (560 MUSD/km2) according to the Action and Management Plan, and focused on administration, coordination, infrastructure construction and renovation (rangers posts, roads, water points) and law enforcement. Before the ECOPAS project, only W Niger had an important road network for tourism and law enforcement. ECOPAS main achievement was the creation of hundreds of new roads, especially in W Benin which had little infrastructure before the project. For this reason, only one fith of the project budget was allowed to law enforcement.

In comparison, Pendjari Action and Management plan only considered a budget of 1 M USD per year (equivalent 225 USD/km2).

ECOPAS ended in 2008 and the park suffered of lack of funds an manpower until the start of the WAP project in 2010. Some authors indicate that wildlife decreased until the beginning of PAPE project due to poaching (conclusion from transect foot surveys).

PAPE project was launched in 2011 as the continuation of ECOPAS project, and ended in 2016 and extended to the whole WAP complex (including Arly and Pendjari blocks). PAPE main goal was to sustain in time the results of ECOPAS and to involve further the local comunities. The first fase budget was 21 MUSD for a period of 4 years and focused on coordination between the three countries, infrasctucture building, law enforcement and tourism facilities.


Pendjari National Park also received significant help from international donors to support the park activities since the eighties. (projects PAPN 1985-1990 and PGRN until 1999).

In 2001 was launched the PCGPN – Project thanks to German cooperation agencies (GTZ/KfW) and thanks to the French cooperation agency (AFD) in a lower proportion, followed by continuous project funded by the German cooperation (GiZ).

The PAGAP project only extended to the W Benin and Pendjari parks at same time of the GiZ and PAPE projects.


Arly has always received less attention, probably suffering from the lack of visibility. W and Pendjari also clearly benefites from their Biosphere Reserve status contrary to Arly.  I will only name the projects PAGEM-PRONAGEM (18,5 USDM – 15 years) and  PAUCOF (1,8  billions FCFA) . This last one extended from 2001-2004.


As far as I understand, elephant poaching has never been controled to accepted levels. While Africa suffered from a huge elephant wave since 2010 aproximatively, WAP was not the exception. I understand that this is one of the reasons why the Benin government decided to give the management of Pendjari to a private partner (African Parks).




Before African Parks management, the park was under CENAGREF administration. CENAGREF is the agency in charge of the management and administration of the Benin protected areas network. In order to reduce tensions with the local comunities, it has been decided to involve these comunities in the management of Pendjari. Some local villagers thus assist the park for law enforcement and wildlife monitoring. AVIGREF was created to sustain the park conservation, to promote the 28 villagers communities in the peripery, and to reduce human pressures on the park. If AVIGREF is responsible for the salaries of the personal in the park activities, it benefits from the revenues from the hunting industry in the Porga, Batia and Konkombri hunting blocks. Up to 30% of the hunting revenues directly go to AVIGREF. The Porga and Batia hunting areas include some limited extensive human activities at their periphery, but inside the Biosphere Reserve. They also receive the meet from the animal hunted by foreign hunters, they can cut grass in some areas of the park...




I do not know what agreement did reached APN with AVIGREF and the government of Benin about it, but I know from APN newsletters that they will build a 170 km fence, which might include or exclude these areas. I know that AVIGREF have a very positive perception of African Parks.




I will go back later on the park revenues, needs and the park budget just before APN arrived.


To be continued...

Edited by jeremie
7 people like this

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

@jeremiethanks for compiling all the essential facts of this little-known WAP (at least in the English language!) and summarising for us to read. quite fascinating, actually. 

1 person likes this

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Very informative @jeremie thank you. Your efforts to chase the French publications and summarise so that we understand the current status, are greatly appreciated

2 people like this

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

@jeremie the level of knowledge on ST is incredible and your post highlights that once again. Thank you.



1 person likes this

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Wildlife diversity, abundance and trends:

Pendjari National Park protects the typical wildlife from the Sudanian savanna, with lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, buffaloes as flagship species. The antilopes the most common in the park are Western kobs, roan, bohor reebucks, bushbucks, waterbucks, Western hartbeest. Korrigum are very scarce in the park.


Since the millenium, the park complex realized diferent wildlife surveys for wildlife monitoring of some of these flagship species.

Aerial surveys where led in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2012 and more recently in 2015. This kind of survey is more appopriate for buffaloes and elephants, and should result in undercounts for smaller species and for carnivores. For this reason, the park also established foot transect surveys to estimate trends for smaller species, especially focused on Western kobs and wartogs.


     1- Aerial surveys:


The diferent aerial surveys usually covered the whole WAP complex, except for the 2006 and 2008 surveys that focused on Pendjari.



  • 2015 - WAP (Total count):'ecosysteme_W-Arly-Pendjari_WAP_Juin_2015


  • 2012 - WAP (partial count):


  • 2003 - WAP (total count):'Ecosysteme_W-Arli-Pendjari-Oti-Mandouri-Keran_WAPOK/links/57c7e57708aec24de042bf6d/Recensement-aerien-total-de-lEcosysteme-W-Arli-Pendjari-Oti-Mandouri-Keran-WAPOK.pdf

  • 2006 - Pendjari (total count)


  • 2008 - Pendjari (total count)


Aerial surveys analysis:


It is very important to note that the 2003 report only gives minimum estimations to understand the results from the 2012 and 2015 studies and more specificaly the trends. The 2012 and 2015 reports respectively gives minimum and mean estimations.

The 2012 report concludes that all the species increased inside the WAP complex at a anual rate between 3 to 7%, excepted for the elephants that seem to be stable. This report for some reasons did not cover all the complex, I will then focus on the 2015 report that was conducted for the Great Elephant Census and funded by Vulcan with Paul Allen for main donor.

The results are very positive. It appears that elephant and buffaloes populations doubled since 2003 and that all the other species increased during the same period. It shows that wildlife concentrates in the Western part of the WAP (Arly and Pendjari blocks). W Niger appeared to have lower wildlife densities, but distriubtion of wildlife was unequally distributed the W Transboundary Biosphere Reserve, with higher densities to be found in Burkina and in Niger. The report also state that livestock population inside the WAP complex steadily increased since 2003 at a 5% anual rate. Livestock encroachment is a major issue in W Benin where wildlife is found in lower densities compared to the neighboring areas.


To go further deeper in the details, the elephant population doubled from 4600 to 9000 animals during the same period, which shows a good recovery of the elephant population. Specialists think elephants density is still far from the carrying capacity of the ecosystem which gives good perspectives for the future if poaching is controled to low levels.However, the report also confirms that there is currently a problem with elephant poaching which increased since 2012 and recomends to invest on law enforcement, especially on deploying more rangers on the ground, on providing them better equipment especially amunitions, and to invest on training.


Interesting is to not that apart from Arly and Pendjari high wildlife densities detected in the 2015 study, there are very good results in some neigboring areas with lower categories of protection. Singo, Pama, Konkombouri, Konkombri have sometimes better densities in comparison with the Arly and Pendjari National parks. This certainly demonstrate a good management of these areas that a under private management (hunting concesions). The Pendjari hunting block show poor performance compared to the former areas. Inside the W area, only Mekrou hunting reserve appears to harbor good wildlife populations, probably due to good management and presence of two perenial rivers inside. Mekrou is also well protected by a buffer area to the South, that was once tried to transform in a villager hunting area (Siri).


The 2006 and 2008 surveys led by Sinsin inside the Pendjari Biosphere Reserve also detected an increase in all the antilope and smal game species. On the other hand, it was assumed that elephants and buffaloes had migrating to neighboring protected areas (W and Arly blocks) to explain the decrease observed between 2006 and 2008. This asumption could was not confirmed until 2012 when the complete study of the WAP complex was conducted by Bouché.


This last point is very relevant today, given that Sinsin was not able to conlude anything but only to make some assumptions to explain these decreases. In order to elaborate good management strategies it is compulsory to have same standards the neighboring protected areas, and to cover the whole ecosystem. I do not know if African Parks will only focus on Pendjari or on the larger ecosystem. It is also needed to study the pattern of migratory species such as elephant and buffaloes throughout the whole complex, something that appears to be poorly known according to the literature available from the WAP.


Sinsin points out the limits of aerial surveys for smaller species in its 2006 report. The states that the lanscape of WAP (a dense forested savannah) is very closed and does not favor resident species to be counted by the air. Animals also tend to stay under the trees to find shadows during the hottest hours of the day.


For this reason, local surveys were also led in the separate areas forming the WAP to study the trends for smaller species, especially antilopes. Good, structured and continued studies were conducted in the W Niger and in the Pendjari compared to Arly and W Benin. These surveys are based on foot transect and are copied from the surveys done at the Nazinga Ranch in Burkina Faso, one hunting and tourism protected area that is the reference in the region in terms of management and ecological surveys (studies from Lungren and Bouché available on internet).


     2- Linear transect surveys (on foot):



There are many sources detailing the results of the foot transect surveys in Arly, W and Pendjari, that I let you above:


  1. W Transboundary National Park


  • Estimations before 2000 for W Niger:


  • 2004 estimations for W Niger(ECOPAS project):


  • Report with estimations from 2005 to 2008 for W Niger (ECOPAS project):


  • Report emited in 2014  for W Benin(PAPE Project):


     2. Arly National Park:


  • 2011 estimations (estimated 11 000 kobs inside Arly National Park)


     3. Pendjari National Park and Biosphere Reserve:

  • Report with estimations from 2002 to 2008:


  • Report with population, densities and biomass estimations from 2002:


  • Monitoring of warthogs and Western kobs (2007):


  • Report emited in 2014 (PAPE project):



Analysis of the foot transect surveys


I will not cover the estimations from W park in detail, you can have a look to the documents to have a look if you are interested in.


In Pendjari, the monitoring was very regular compared to the other protected areas, which can give trends interpretation with high confiability. We saw that the aerial surveys were conducted bi-anually, but with some limits as they did not cover the whole WAP landscape and because aerial counts are not appropriate for smaller game species in this landscape. The foot transect estimations were conducted anually and at this frequency it can give good interpretation of the trends for diferent species.  These surveys were more oriented to warthogs and Western kobs.


Sinsin surveys during 2001 - 2009:

From 2001 to 2009 there were considerable fluctuation year after year, but it can be observed the following results:

-       An increase of indirect elements of presence for kobs and warthogs.

-       A decrease of direct contacts with kobs and warthogs, equivalent to a decrease of the population for both species during the same period.

-       An important estimated population for both species inside the park.

Diferent assumptions arise to explain these results, the main reason assumed by the authors of the report is ilegal poaching which shows that law enforcement is not suficient in Pendjari, which is coherent with AVIGREF claims.

In 2007 there was an estimated 7900 kobs and 1900 warthogs inside Pendjari (Ahokpe).


PAPE survey in Benin Pendjari and W National Parks (2013):

An estimation led in 2013 for the PAPE Project in Pendjari and W Benin confirm some of the aerial results from 2012 and 2015.


Animals are to be found in much higher densities in the Pendjari block compared to the W block, and inside the Pendjari Biosphere Reserve, Pendjari/Konkombri areas host higher densities than in Pendjari hunting reserve. In fact, Pendjari NP presents 51,66 animals per km2, or equivalent to 52.497 animals for the park. Konkombri even have a higher wildlife density,  raising to 56,43 animals per km2, equivalent to 10.363 animals. Pendjari hunting reserve only has a wildlife density of 25,32 animals/km2, equivalent to 23.258 animals. The total buffaloes populations in the Bioshpere Reserve of Pendjari were respectively estimated to 20.439 buffaloes and 12.513 Western kobs during this survey (and respectively 14.450 and 8.270 for Pendjari National Park alone). It is important to not that both are higher estimations than those estimated during the aerial count of 2015. Bandjagoun area, located to the East of the park, presented the higher density of the park, with more than 70 animals per km2.

This study also confirms 2012 and 2015 aerial census reports that conclude in an increase for all the species in the park.


In comparisom,  W Benin National Park presented very low wildlife densities, with 7,52 animals per km2 in Djona Hunting reserve, 3,22 animals/km2 in Mekrou reserve, and only 2,41 animals per km2 inside the W National Park. This is a dramatic decline (from 2,5 to 1 IKA or indicators of animal presence between 2007 to 2013) since the end of the ECOPAS project in 2008, and this is a very strong alarm for better management and law enforcement in this park. In the 2015 aerial survey, it is interesting to note that Mekrou presented higher wildlife abundance compared to this 2014 survey, which could be explained by local migrations inside the landscape.


In a nutshel, different types of surveys conclude that WAP has seen an increase of wildlife populations since the beginning of the millenium, with an important increase for buffaloes and elephants principally inside Arly and Pendjari blocks. Pendjari seem to have acted as a source population from where animals have migrated to neighboring areas during the ECOPAS project period extending between 2001 and 2008 (Sinsin). Some hunting blocks have higher wildlife abundance than the neighboring national parks. There is a very significant kob populations in Pendjari Biosphere reserve and in the Arly block too. W Niger is a large, remote National Park with very little infrastructure compared to Pendjari or W Niger. ECOPAS developed many tracks and roads to ensure better law enforcement but lack of funds between the end of ECOPAS project and the beginning of PAPE project led to a collapse of wildlife population due to poaching which remains a significant issue. It is well known from W Niger documents (PAPE) that local and international (mostly Nigerian) poaching happen to the South of W Niger and probably inside W Benin, especially oriented on elephant poaching. PAPE aimed to continue to develop ranger stations and tracks inside W Benin to control poaching and a massive livestock encroachment (3,5 more livestock in the park in 2015 as from 2003 aerial count). The 2015 and 2012 aerial survey conclude that W Niger and W Burkina are in better shape than W benin. I would say that PAPE did not succeed in meeting its objective in W Niger if we analyze the 2015 aerial count results.


I have doubts what would be the correct strategy to share funds between all the diferent areas. There is a significant gap in the budget of W Niger and Pendjari that is supplied by international donors during projects. Arly and W Niger are definitely under funded, under equipped, and lack of manpower.

Wildlife densities are significantly higher in Arly and Pendjari that should thus be the priorities. African Parks involment in Pendjari National Park should help to push Burkina Faso to increase its standard inside the Arly block, which benefits from excelent hunting private concessions management (something I did not develop until now), but Arly National Park is still poorly funded and its special shape does not help the administration to ensure law enforcement outside of the central area. W Niger will continue to benefit from international donations which should be extended to the W Benin and W Burkina once the W Biosphere Reserve will be extended to these areas (expected by the end of 2017). I do not think CENAGREF will change its funding in favor of W Benin as the last APN newsletter says that Benin secured fund will continue to fund the activities in Pendjari at a significant level. Urgent measures have to be taken to prevent livestock encroachment in W Benin, transhumance roads agreements between the 3 countries must be revised with Burkina and Niger as soon as possible, due to the increase of livestock inside and outside W Niger Narional Park. Important funding to develop law enforcement and suficient manpower to ensure patrolling inside W Benin is needed as soon as posible.


Lastly, I will later on post the Action and Management Plan for the W Transboundary National Park where it can be seen road and track networks, water natural and artificial points. If analysing the wildlife distribution and abundance maps posted here with this data, it seems clear that the presence of roads (to ensure law enforcement) and water points are favorably benefiting to wildlife. Another very important wildlife management measure is the controlled fires that rangers apply at the beginning of the dry season. All these measures should be continued where it appears to work well and should be developed where wildlife are find in lower densities, such as the Pendjari Hunting reserve (Batia and Porgy), W Niger, W Burkina, W Benin.


I will deal with the budget of Pendjari and the flaghsip species of Pendjari and W protected areas in another post...

Edited by jeremie
4 people like this

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Flagship species:


I will not come back on the elephant, which has been largely discussed in the previous posts. Just to mention that WAP contains the largest West African population of savanna elephants, along with Nazinga Ranch, Yankari Game Reserve and the Gourma elephants.


Concerning the large carnivores, the apex carnivore is the Western Lion, which is cohabiting with spotted hyena, the leopard, the wild dog and the cheetah.


Here is the strategy for conservation of elephants in Benin (2005):

strategie de conservation de l'elephant au benin - CHM


Here is the action plan for elephants in Niger (2010):

Plan d'actions Éléphant Niger 2010




According to some genetic studies, Western lions are more related to eurasian lions than lions from Eastern and Southern populations. Once widespread in the Sudanian savanna of West Africa, it is now confined to 4 populations according to Henschel: Niokolo Koba in Senegal, Yankari Game Reserve and Kainji Lake in Nigeria, and the WAP complex that is the stronghold in the region.



Less surveys were realized concerning large carnivores during the ECOPAS project in the W park compared to the Pendjari National Park during the same period.


  • Pendjari surveys


Call up surveys


Four diferent surveys were conducted in 2001 and 2003 (Di Silvestre), and then 2007 and 2009 (Sogbohossou). These first surveys were conducted using the call-up method. The 2001 survey concluded that there was a estimated population of 32 lions inside the Pendjari Biosphere Reserve and the 2009 survey a gave an estimation of 71 lions, which shows an increase of lions during the ECOPAS project. This is also coherent with the conclusions of the 2015 aerial survey and the mammal transect surveys led anualy that demonstrate an increase in all the game species.

Sogbohossou says that the 2009 lion population is equivalent to a density of 1,5 lions per 100 km2, which is lower than the densities found in Central Africa (Zakouma, Benoué, Waza) but still remain the highest of all the lions units in West Africa. Lions are found in small groups compared to Eastern and Southern lions and concentrate arround the waterpoints of Bori, Bali and the Pendjari river in the Biosphere Reserve.


Same author realized a scat studies and concluded after this analisis and feeding observations, that the lion main preys in the park were buffaloes and Western kobs, followed by hippopotamus, hartebeests and roan antilopes.



  • W Niger surveys


One study published in 2006 and funded by the ECOPAS project, concluded that the loss of livestock due to large carnivore depredation, was estimated  to about 180.000 USD per year in W Niger National Park. This document says that other estimations of lions for W Niger only were led in 1992, 1999, 2001 (Alou) and 2004 (Di Silvestri) with estimations of 60, 88, 70 and 21-36 lions, that gives a density of 1 lion per 100 km2.





  • Spoor count surveys in WAP:


The following studies led by Panthera and under the PAPE project decided to change the survey method, which was also a recomendation of Sogbohossou. It was decided to use spoor transect methods (Funston formula, 2010) and the study considered a much larger area including the Arly block and W Transboudary Biosphere Reserve.


The 2012 study (Ndao and Henschel) and the 2014 study (Bouché) led to similar conclusions.

In 2012, there was an estimation of 311 (123-498) lions in the WAP compared to an estimation of 418 (230-648) in 2014. The 2014 report explains this diference by better methods used during the 2014 survey.  1100 km of transects were realized in 2012 and 1462 km in 2014. This increase in the area surveys also considered water points that were not covered in the 2012 survey.

There are very similar numbers for Arly-Pendjari blocks in both studies: 247 (110-383) compared to 234 (116-352) in 2012 and 2014 respectively. The main diference provided from the W block between the 2012 and 2014 studies, with 64 (13-115) and 184 (106-262) lions estimated respectively.

A total number of hyenas was estimated to 1119 (724-1843) in the 2014 study.


It is clear that bringing back the prey density within the W Niger National Park to similar levels than in W Burkina and Niger, will benefit to the lion population. The lion ocupancy in the WAP is close to 71% when Pendjari National Park lion ocupany is almost 1. As a consequence, it would be wise to consider feasible to increase the lion population by a 30 increase once the prey population have recovered in W Transboundary Biosphere Reserve. Interesting is to note that the 2012 survey (Henschel) concluded that lion ocupancy was lower in W Burkina and W Niger where preys are found in much higher densities compared to W Benin (2012 and 2015 aerial surveys).



  • 2012 Henschel survey:

  • 2014 Bouché survey:


  • Hunting quotas


Establishing lion estimation is critical in the case of the WAP complex, because lions hunting is allowed in Benin and Burkina Faso. Hunting is indeed the major vector of contributor to the the Arly and Pendjari National Parks budgets and lion quotas should be thus determined on a scientific, rigorous way, and must not affect the lion population in any way, which is largely discused by diferent specialists.

Following the Cecil the Lion show on social medias, many Western countries decided to prohibit lion trophies importations that would definitely badly affect conservation in Africa, and more especially in WAP.





  • Action plans and strategy

The three countries have elaborated Action Plans for the lion, I let you the links if you want to have a look to the activities considered:


  • Conservation strategy for lion in West and Central Africa (2006):


  • Lion status Burkina Faso 2010:


  • Lion status Benin 2009:


  • Lions action plan workshop 2012:


  • Lion Action plan Benin 2014 (activities and results expected in English)

Edited by jeremie
3 people like this

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Wild dogs


The last wild dogs population in West Africa were found in Niokolo Koba in Senegal where few packs are still present, Southern Algeria is without any observation post-2002, in Benoué complex it was extirpated arround 2000, in WAP there is no observation reported since 2008. Wild dogs are critically endengered in West Africa and special regional and national action plans were elaborated to conserve this species.

Unfortunately, wild dogs are now considered extirpated from the WAP and no observations were reported in the last decade. This fact is to be compared with observations almost every year, in particular during the transect surveys conducted in Pendjari. From 2002 to 2007 wild dogs were observed each year in the park with 5 contacts in 2005, same in 2006, and 4 contact in 2007. The last contact is reported from Niger with 5 wild dogs in 2008.


No specific study was never conducted for this species even if special monitoring was considered by the Pendjari monitoring team in 2007, with a plan to find a den. ZSL estimated a number of 20 dogs divided in a maximum of 4 packs.




  • 2012 - Regional strategy for cheetah and wild dog in Western, Central and Northern  Africa:

  • 2007 – Contribution to wild dog conservation in West Africa (Sogbohossou):

  • 2007 - Current status of wild dog in West Africa, the case of Pendjari Biosphere Reserve (Tehou)

  • 2008 – Suivi ecologique d’especes peu communes en Afrique Central et en Afrique de l’Ouest (Pellerin)'especes_peu_communes_en_Afrique_Centrale_et_en_Afrique_de_l'Ouest

  • 2015 – Large scale extinction of large carnivores in West and Central Africa (Bruguière)




The leopard is present in the WAP but is very cryptic. It is also considered uncomon compared to the lion. There are reports of observations of leopards every year. The 2014 large carnivore project detected 8 leopard spoors all located in the Arly block. However, there is a camera trapping monitoring of large carnivores  currently ongoing that detected leopards in Pendjari and in W Niger. It seems to be present in all the WAP areas. I don't know what are the objective of this study, if it will try to identify different animals, to evaluate distribution, abundance, territory and population.






The last population of  cheetah in the Sudanian savanna in West Africa is located in the WAP. It is now considered extinct from Northern Cameroon. Inside the WAP, it is found in low densities. Di Silvestre (2003) reported a minimum of 5 families identified between W Niger and Tamou reserve and estimated a population of 16 animals in this park.

Observations are reported every year but no specific studies were conducted on this very scarce species in the WAP until now and very little is known about the cheetah in WAP.

The 2012 and 2014 large carnivores spoor counts surveys found some cheetah spoors in insuficient quantity to extrapolate the information.

Reports of cheetah observations increased between 2000 and 2009 in Pendjari according to Berzins and Pendjari transect surveys frequently found cheetah during the 2000’s.

ZSL estimates a density of 1 cheetah per 1000 km2, which would be equivalent to a population of 23 cheetahs in the WAP complex considering a ocupancy area of 23.000 km2.


ACTAG (the association of the touristic operators of W Transboundary Park) is conducting a camara trapping monitoring project of felids, and detected diferent cheetahs, along with serval, caracal and wild cat in W Niger and the neighboring areas. As said before for leopard, I have no idea what do they want to do exactly with it.




African Parks should promptly start conducting research on this flagship species in order to better know its ecology.


Strategy and Action Plans.


The cheetah is critically endengered in Western and Northern Africa and received a lot of atention to elaborate some regional strategies and national action plans, in particular in Benin and Niger. The actions and results expected are detailed in the Action Plans available above.


  • 2012 - Regional cheetah and wild dog strategy for West Africa


  • 2014 - WAPO large carnivore Action Plan:


  • 2014 - Cheetah Action Plan workshop for Benin:


  • 2014 - Cheetah Action Plan for Benin


  • 2016 - Cheetah and wild dog Action Plan for Niger


Western giraffe:


The ECOPAS and PAPE projects extended to cover the giraffe area of Kouré, which resulted in a huge conservation success, with a population increase from 50 animals in 1996 to 550 animals in 2017.

I have already started another thread about it and I will just link it here:


Edited by jeremie
3 people like this

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems I had very bad information, because the 41th World Heritage committee is now committed in Cracow (and not at the end of the year as I was thinking). They have already declared the W-Arly-Pendjari extension as a World Heritage Site. Here is the declaration released yesterday, 7th of July 2017:

1 person likes this

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Management and Action Plans

For some reasons the W and Pendjari management and action plans are available on the internet. It is usually dificult to find these documents, for example, in the case of African Parks, I have looked for their business and management plans but I have have never been able to find them.


This is very interesting because you can see the advancement of the ECOPAS project in terms of infrastructure construction, which is fundamental to complete the law enforcement plan. Basically, the plan is focusing on the international coordination between the three countries, the development of infrastructure (water points maintenance and development, tracks and road maintenance and development, viewpoint, maintenance of natural or artificial salt licks), community relations and programs, livestock strategies and management and law enforcement.


These documents are thus a real mine of information of the parks plans, and of the general context. It also covers the conservation historial done before. Interesting to notice that the W management plan is a common plan for Burkina, Niger and Benin.


If you are interested to see the actions considered to conserve the parks, and the results expected for each action, I will let the link of the plans above.


W Transboundary Block:


The key in the management of the WAP area is the coordination of the three countries. If less efforts is done of one of components of the Biosphere Reserve, this will affect the global performance of the area. For this reason patrolling is conducted by joint teams at the frontier of the three countries, and of course at a national scale far from the frontiers. Efforts have been done to develop Burkina and Benin components under ECOPAS and PAPE that received less attention in the past compared to Niger, when Niger tried to develop tourism with different touristic products. Tourism increased a lot in W Niger until 2011 when the French military intervention in Mali led to a decline of tourism. Point Afrique operator that took the management of Tapoa Hotel had to leave since that its operations where highly linked with tourism in the Sahelo-Saharian region. Another important operator is the Lamentin Ecolodge located on an island in the Niger river which offers spectacular views. In Burkina tourism is very reduced. In Benin it is non-existent.


  • 2006-2010 W Management Plan (mid-term revision, developed under ECOPAS project)

Shorter version:

  • 2017-2026 W Management Plan (developed under PAPE project)


Arly Block


Arly National Park has received very little attention compared to W and Pendjari parks. Infrastructure is very limited and the few tourists visiting the park prefer to use instalations of hunting operators located around the park.

Arly National Park is now composed of one central area and two peripheral areas (that were before hunting reserves) that are very difficult to control due to budget reasons. The main problem of the park is the presence of the Madjoari enclave which difficults the management of the park in the peripheral areas as said before (higher perimeter means more resources to control ilegal activities). There are plans to relocate the villages inhabitants of Madjaori enclave but this will clearly be an expansive operation, but the result will clearly benefit to wildlife and will lower the costs of the park administration.


  • 2013-2017  Arly Management Plan


Pendjari Block:


The activities considered in the Pendjari Management plan are totally coherent with the decision to give the management of the park to the NGO African Parks.

I have seen on the CENAGREFF website that the park authorities realized a workshop jointly with Burkina Faso Arly National Park representatives, I guess the idea was to align the activities of both parks together and to find similar standards, especially for the activities led at the frontier along the Pendjari river.


Special attention is given to the corridor between Pendjari block and Oti-Keran block in Togo, in order to recover the Togolese are in the future and funds are considered in the management plan of Pendjari to ensure this objective.


  • 2004-2013 Pendjari Management Plan _pacr_Pendjari.pdfère%20Pendjari.pdf               

  • 2016-2025 Pendjari Management Plan


PAPACO Niger park evaluation

  • Niger protected areas performance evaluation from 2010:


Law Enforcement Plan (LAB)


There is also a specific action plan focused on law enforcement at the scale of the WAPOK (includes rehabilitation of Oti and Keran protected areas in Togo). It is considering very important resources. I am not sure the park fullfils 30% of the objectives of this plan because of the limited funds available. The needs to reach the objective of this plan is 45 MUSD por a 5 years period, equivalent to 9 MUSD per year for the whole area of 23.000 km2.


Law enforcement plan (PAULAB)


Projects final evaluation


PAPE was fundamental to continue the work done under ECOPAS project. The achievements at mid-term of PAPE can be seen in the following documents if you are interested to understand the contribution of this project.




I also found this short presentation of PACAP project from 2012 that show an increase of the direct and indirect observations of wildlife during the execution of the project:

Edited by jeremie
1 person likes this

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Hunting Reserve management and performance


I will finish with the business plan and the fund needed to cover the parks mission and activities in the WAP. But I will take the time to deal with the significant role of trophy hunting in the conservation at the scale of the WAP complex.


In Arly for instance, the last aerial surveys show very high wildlife densities inside the Hunting Reserves and that even exceeds the abundance inside Arly National Park. This is the result of a very good management of these areas, with the creation and maintenance of many artificial water points and the planning of controlled fires during the beginning of the dry season. It also seems that law enforcement has better performance (and more resources) in these areas compared to Arly National Park.


In the case of W National Park, we can observe the same results with Mekrou presenting high wildlife densities compared to the depleted W Niger National Park. In the case of Pendjari, the three hunting reserves do not show the same results. Konkombri seems to be a very performant reserve presenting higher wildlife abundance compared to Pendjari National Park, while Porga and Batia hunting reserves have half the abundance of the national park.

The CENAGREFF defines objectives to these hunting areas and do the monitoring of the results achieved by the hunting areas. In order to ensure law enforcement inside the hunting areas, CENAGREF covers these territories jointly with personal of the concessions, which lower the costs of the park administration that can focus on the national park.


  • Konkombouri hunting concession performance in Burkina:'Ouest_Evaluation_ecologique_et_economique_de_la_Zone_de_Chasse_de_Konkombouri_au_Burkina_Faso


  • Revision of the hunting concessions contracts in Benin

Rapport Final_évaluation contrats amodiation ZC_ version fevrier 2014


  • Importance of trophy hunting in WAP:


There are some plans to create some village hunting zones South to Pendjari National Park (Seri area) and South to Djona Hunting reserves (Rapidalibori), that would help the local communities to benefit from the conservation in the core areas. On the other hand, this will clearly help to conserve wildlife in the buffer areas.

Edited by jeremie
1 person likes this

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Pendjari Business Plan


I have found many different sources dealing with the park budget, earnings and expenses. I will refer only to two different sources because things seem confused with the different projects.


We have to separate the budget to run the park activities according to the Management Plan activities, and the extra funding coming from the projects. Some of the activities realized by the projects in fact do not have nothing to do with the park operation activities.


I will then take for main source the park business plan for the 2007-2011 period (second edition):


The park needs about $ 425.000 USD per year (or equivalent to 90 USD/km2), without taking into account special projects and programs from international donors. This budget consideres 25 rangers on the ground to ensure law enforcement activities (1 man for 200 km2). This budget goes to the administration of the park which include salaries (59%), law enforcement (23%), infrastructure maintenance and construction (9%), wildlife monitoring (4%) and marketing (5%).

The park revenues are principally originated from photographic tourism (35%)  and trophy hunting (54%) activities, with 85.000 euros and 156.000 euros respectively. These revenues have to be shared between the local communities (AVIGREFF) and the CENEGREFF General Direction. Between 2007 and 2011, about 23% of the park revenues went to the General Direction, 19% to AVIGREFF (equivalent to 30% of the trophy hunting revenues) and only 58% remains to the park.


The park incomes provided from the park revenues (34%), the Benin subventions (31%) and the International donors (35%). The park is thus far from being self-sufficient.


Tourists increases slowly from 2001 to 2006 and then jumped in 2006 to reach 9000 tourists per year in 2011. This number then dropped dow because of the French military intervention in Mali principally and is around 7000 now. Revenues from trophy hunting are stable so it seems that the park will need to promote tourism activities to increase its total revenues.


Hence there is a gap in the budget that was supplied by international donors in the 2000's. For this reason, it was decided to establish a trust fund that would replace the international donors.


This trust fund was established in 2012 and as far as I understand started to operate in 2015. It is about 24 MUSD and should gives a little bit less than 1 MUSD per year, to be divided between W, Arly and Pendjari.

The FSOA administrates the fund, further information is available here:



Under ECOPAS and PAPE, the number of personal dedicated to law enforcement obviously increased. For instance, there were 79 persons (40 rangers) for W Benin, 71 (50 rangers) W burkina, 44 (13 rangers) W Niger during ECOPAS. I an looking again to find the number of rangers under PAPE in Pendjari but I do not find it again. Just know that APN will recruit 30 more rangers before the end of the year.


I will finish with a very long quote from Henschel  (2016) which resumes well the situation in Pendjari and WAP, and stresses the limits of the current budget.



Our findings suggest that lions, particularly in W NP, are currently limited by scarce patrol efforts, inadequate to fully protect the park. A WAP-wide aerial survey conducted in 2004 established that incursions by people and cattle herds were detected more frequently in W NP than in Arly-Pendjari, while large mammals, such as elephants and buffalos were significantly more abundant in Arly-Pendjari (Bouché et al., 2004). A partial aerial survey conducted in May 2012 across the tri-national W NP following our lion spoor survey, revealed the presence of >50,000 head of cattle inside this park, compared to an observed <6000 wild herbivores counted in the same survey (Bouché, 2012). This represented a 4-fold increase in the number of illegal cattle in W NP since 2004 (Bouché et al., 2004), and shows that in the dry season, cattle is almost 10 times more abundant in W NP than wild prey.

Though it is unknown how this quasi-replacement of wild prey with cattle impacts local lion populations, comparisons to other areas and anecdotal observations provide some insight. The nomadic pastoralists penetrating WAP in the dry season are of the Fula ethnic group, members of whom have been implicated in the poisoning and local extinction of lions in several Pas across West Africa (Henschel et al., 2010). That such patterns occur in W is supported by local reports from park rangers about lions being killed by herders in W on the Benin side, yet those records have not been quantified to date. The effects of cattle herds on natural lion prey species, namely wild herbivores, either through competition or displacement on pastures or at water points, are likely to have a significant negative effect on local populations, particularly as the incursions occur in the dry season when resources are scarce. While the poaching of lion prey for bushmeat consumption (Sinsin et al., 2002) and the poaching of lions for use of their body parts (Henschel et al., 2012) are also recognized threats to lions in WAP, they might be outweighed by the massive illegal incursions of cattle into W NP in the dry season. Further research is required to quantify local impacts of cattle incursions and of poaching on wild herbivores and lions across WAP.


Our findings suggest that currently inadequate protection of W, facilitated by low numbers of permanent staff, have led to a proliferation of illegal usage of W, mainly by nomadic pastoralists, which in turn appears to limit lion occurrence in this eastern part of WAP. Most recently, individuals linked with a regional terrorist group were sighted in the vicinity of and inside the tri-national W NP (CENAGREF, pers. comm.). Analysts observed similar patterns within northern Nigeria, and link the incursions of criminals into PAs to a lack of security mechanisms, patrols, and basic management in the affected PAs. Such lax enforcement leads to hideouts for terrorists, armed robbers, and other criminals (e.g., Ladan, 2014). One explanation for their attraction to W is the presence of high-value natural resources, such as elephants and felids, whose body parts fetch high prices on the illegal wildlife market (Douglas and Alie, 2014). Analysts recommend stronger protection of these areas, including patrols by military units and/or other well-trained and well-equipped security forces (Ladan, 2014), further highlighting the need to improve protection efforts in the tri-national W NP.

While such management interventions require funding, parts of Arly and Pendjari have been shown to generate considerable revenue from tourism, either through photographic tourism or trophy hunting. The Pendjari NP and adjacent hunting concessions, managed jointly as a single block, achieved combined revenues of US$260,000 in 2011 (CENAGREF, 2012), translating to US$52/km2annually. This revenue covered <10% of the management budget available to park authorities in 2011 (US$627/km2), which was heavily subsidized by the Benin government and international donor funding. Nonetheless, revenue in Pendjari has increased by 165% between 2006 and 2011 (CENAGREF, 2012), highlighting the potential of the park and adjacent hunting concessions to generate a large proportion of the park’s total required budget. Currently, almost 2/3 of the annual revenue in the Pendjari block is generated by the hunting concessions adjacent to Pendjari NP; however, the steepest increase in revenues since 2006 came from photographic tourism inside the NP (CENAGREF, 2012). The reliance of revenue from hunting is even more pronounced on the Burkina Faso side, where the Arly and W NPs receive few photographic tourists, while the ca 7000 km2of hunting blocks generated about US$42/km2for the Burkinabe government in the hunting season 2005/2006 (IUCN/PACO, 2009); the turnover for the actual hunting concession holders was seven times this amount (US$296/km2). The overall management budgets realized in those concession areas were markedly higher than those for the W NPs in Niger and Benin, which likely explains the positive, though weak, relationship between lion occupancy and the presence of trophy hunting (Table 4).

While hunting concessions contribute sizable proportions of the revenues WAP currently generates for local authorities, it is challenging to reconcile the trophy hunting of this Critically Endangered lion population, particularly with Burkina Faso having the highest lion quotas per km2of hunting concession of any African country (Lindsey et al., 2013b). Lion quotas have been reduced markedly in recent years in Benin, where the quota was halved from 10 to 5 animals in 2004, following a 2- year hunting moratorium in 2002 due to concerns about the species’ status (Pellerin et al., 2009; Sogbohossou, 2011). Wildlife authorities in Benin and Burkina Faso have also committed to enforce age restrictions on lion hunting (Lindsey et al., 2013b), which can reduce off-takes and improve the sustainability of harvest (Whitman et al., 2004, 2007) if rigorously enforced. While these steps are laudable, it is likely that hunting remains additive to overall lion mortality given the prevalence of other anthropogenic threats (poisoning and poaching) across the ecosystem. In a series of stochastic population models projected over a 25-year period in a “realistic” scenario (within a protected national park and adjacent hunting areas in Zambia), lion numbers declined due to trophy hunting for all continuous harvest strategies; substantial declines resulted from quotas greater than 0.5 lion/1000 km2and hunting of males younger than 7 years (Creel et al., 2016). Furthermore, prior research on lion demography in WAP provided evidence of a heavily perturbed population with low recruitment even inside NPs, which the authors link to the presence of trophy hunting (Sogbohossou et al., 2014). The population currently lacks the sex and age structure typical of well protected populations (Stander, 1991; Creel and Creel, 1997), as it proportionally lacks adult females and younger cohorts (Sogbohossou et al., 2014).

Without considerable increases in revenue, the illegal grazing and concomitant poisoning and poaching of lions in national parks and hunting concessions throughout WAP will undoubtedly continue. A previous study suggests that management budgets (including staff salaries) of >US$2000/km2/year are required to maintain lions at 50% of ecological carrying capacity in unfenced protected areas

(Packer et al. (2013). As permanent staff numbers and annual management budgets in our study were highly and significantly correlated (r=0.89, p<0.001), the annual management budget associated with staff levels at lion occupancy of 80% (Figure 3) was US$125/km2/year (Figure 6). In areas with lion occupancy close to 1, like in the southwestern part of WAP (Figure 5), staff numbers were >12.5 per 1000 km2, with concomitant management budgets >US$400/km2/year (Figures 3,6). Estimated lion occupancy across WAP (0.71) is well below the expected minimum, considering the entire ecosystem consists of intact lion habitat. We therefore recommend that management budgets (excluding staff salaries) be elevated to an absolute minimum of US$125/km2/year across the entire WAP, with a proportional increase in permanent patrol staff numbers to 9 people/1000 km2, to provide sufficient protection to at least maintain resident lions. For the 27,000 km2WAP, this translates to an annual management budget (excluding staff salaries) of just over US$3 million. While photographic and hunting tourism presently contributes to this goal, it falls well short of the target which relies on substantial and urgent investment by the international donor community. For any such investments, it will be crucial that adequate funding levels are sustained in the long- term to achieve desired outcomes (Smith et al., 2003; Blom et al., 2010).


In order to curb illegal incursions into PAs by pastoralists and the killing of lions and their prey, we believe urgent priority must be given to a dual strategy that focuses on increasing management budgets and the numbers and expertise of enforcement personnel across WAP. In the short-term, it is imperative that resources are directed toward improving the status of the tri-national W National Park. Without a continuous, well-funded effort to improve overall security and remove terrorists, illegal herders and poachers, W’s lions will not recover, further imperiling the long-term viability of the entire WAP population. In the absence of maintaining security for tourists and increasing wildlife numbers in W, efforts to intensify and expand tourism operations across WAP as a sustainable source of income for PA management will also fail.


Edited by jeremie
1 person likes this

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

© 2006 - 2017 - Talking Safaris and African Wildlife Conservation since 2006. Passionate about Africa.