Together, W and Pendjari National Parks form a significant portion of the W-Arly-Pendjari (WAP) Complex, a globally significant transboundary landscape representing the largest intact wild ecosystem in West Africa.
W National Park is a transboundary protected area and UNESCO World Heritage Site covering three countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger. In June 2020, the Benin portion of the park, spanning more than 8,000 km2, officially came under African Parks’ management. W National Park is contiguous with Pendjari National Park, which the Benin Government invited African Parks to manage in 2017. Together, the parks form a significant portion of the W-Arly-Pendjari (WAP) Complex, a globally significant transboundary landscape representing the largest intact wild ecosystem in West Africa.
The park is named for the shape of the Niger River which represents the northern boundary of the park in Niger. W lies within the Sudano-Sahelian bioregion and its associated climate. The annual rainfall in the park is 700-900 mm, largely falling between June and November, with the single dry season running from November to May. The undulating plateau marks the end of the Atakora, or Togo, Mountain range. The park is characterised by wooded savannah and gallery forests in the south and open savannah with thorny scrub in the north. Two large river systems, the Mékrou and Alibori, drain into the park, which is part of the Niger River basin.
The WAP Complex is home to the last viable populations of several species in the region including the Northwest African cheetah, a critically endangered subspecies which occurs here in small numbers. Ninety percent of the West African lion subpopulation, where only 400 individuals remain, occur in the WAP. Several rare antelope species are also present including the korrigum, or tsessebe; and more than 1,700 elephants can be found in the Complex, which is the largest stronghold in the region.
In recognition of the significance of the wider ecosystem and the prevailing threats, the Benin Government coordinated with African Parks in September 2019 to implement a Priority Intervention Plan (PIP) to secure W National Park, which evolved into a full management mandate in June 2020. The initial PIP agreement, between the Benin Government, West African Savannah Foundation (FSOA), and African Parks, aimed to improve law enforcement capacity and training, rehabilitate existing infrastructure, and strengthen collaboration with local communities. The full mandate will continue these operations in addition to others. By building community engagement, enhancing law enforcement and initiating conservation and development programmes, the partnership aims to restore these vital national parks, creating positive social and economic impacts to benefit the entire region.
In June 2020, African Parks signed an initial 10-year management agreement with the Republic of Benin to manage W National Park, the second park in the country to enter the portfolio after Pendjari National Park which forms part of the same transfrontier park, W-Arly-Pendjari Complex.View Partners
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