Around 230,000 people live in 95 villages in the periphery of W National Park. Agricultural expansion has massively increased over the last 20 years with 8,000 km2 of savannah and forest lost to agriculture on the edge of the park.
Regional transhumance presents additional challenges with an influx of people travelling from Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger with their livestock. In the last several years these people have settled in the park during the wet season. They arrive with large herds of cattle, numbering over 1,000, and are often armed. These groups of people are compared to the local pastoralists which have strong traditional roots and who have herds of cattle numbering 100 – 500 and are very rarely armed. The local herders enter only the edges of the park to find water and to avoid conflicts with farmers on the periphery. Direct threats from livestock include competition with wildlife for resources, habitat destruction from overgrazing, and potential zoonotic transmissions. Indirect threats include hostility to carnivores that threaten livestock as well as relationships between herders and terrorist groups. In 2021, a livestock health support plan was implemented with 5,000 cattle vaccinated against Pasteurellosis and CBPP (Contageous Bovine Pleuropneumonia). With agricultural encroachment being a major threat to conservation management within WNP, a 124 km road was constructed in the southern part of the park demarcating the boundary, and agreements were signed with local authorities to adhere to the limits. Through the livestock management plan, 30 professional herders were deployed inside the park to sensitise herders on grazing access and to secure the core 1,500 km² area of the park which was kept livestock-free during the rainy season – a first for WNP since its creation.
Managing all of these groups requires close collaboration with local communities. A framework was developed to consult with local leaders in the area. To reduce the presence of local pastoralists searching for water for their livestock, watering troughs with a solar pump were installed in Alfa Kouara, a main centre for the area. A livestock management plan has defined three pastoral zones in the buffer zone around the park with input from local leaders.
Human-wildlife conflict is ever-present and is monitored on a regular basis including receiving and investigating complaints. An annual survey will be administered in local communities bordering the park to provide more understanding and context so future issues can be mitigated.
In 2021, sixteen community facilitators were trained and deployed to raise awareness of the park and wildlife conservation. A total of 1,534 community meetings were organised, engaging 57,966 people, including local and socio-professional leaders.
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