Pendjari is a conservation stronghold in West Africa, which forms part of a critically important triad of national parks and reserves where 90% of the West African lion population remains
Pendjari National Park forms part of the 32,250 km² transnational W-Arly-Pendjari (WAP) Complex, spanning Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger, which is the largest remaining, intact wild ecosystem in west Africa. Covering 4,800 km2, Pendjari is the last refuge for the region’s 1,700 elephants and 25% of the remaining 400 critically endangered West African lions. But, historically, the region suffered political instability, lax management, insufficient resources, and growing human pressures, all of which threatened the remaining wildlife and livelihoods of communities dependent on the park. However, in 2017, the Government of Benin recognised the link between securing its protected areas and sustainable development for the country. In May that year, they invited African Parks to assume management of Pendjari. Since then, and with a lifeline of US$23 million committed by the Benin Government, Wyss Foundation, National Geographic, and Wildcat Foundation, Pendjari’s rejuvenation has been palpable.
In five years, this volatile landscape, inundated by uncontrolled use and rampant poaching, has become a safe haven for growing wildlife populations and a vital source of employment, education, healthcare, and stability for thousands of people. A multifaceted law enforcement strategy has ensured a level of security in the region; infrastructure investments and other measures have accounted for a 70% drop in human wildlife conflict, while enterprise developments are adding to local revenue streams and significantly increasing food security for local communities. Despite its challenges, in one of the most precarious regions in Africa today, Pendjari is emerging as a place of hope and safety, encouraging its people to continue protecting its fragile biodiversity for future generations.
Securing operational control of the last great wilderness in West Africa and its iconic species remains a top priority. This will allow tourism to be stabilised following security threats, providing local people with income and positioning the park as a global wildlife tourism destination. Working with the communities is also a top priority, to mitigate human-wildlife conflict and to provide alternative livelihoods to poaching and resource extraction, in order to ensure future prosperity for the region.
In May 2017, the Government of Benin entered into a long-term agreement with African Parks to revitalise, rehabilitate and develop Pendjari. Pendjari was included as one of 45 flagship projects of the “Revealing Benin” national investment programmePartners
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