Re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing Benin's Pend­jari Na­tional Park

The Pres­i­dency of the Re­pub­lic of Benin and the con­ser­va­tion NGO African Parks an­nounce the sign­ing of a 10-year re­new­able part­ner­ship to re­vi­talise, re­ha­bil­i­tate and de­velop Pend­jari Na­tional Park, one of the largest re­main­ing pro­tected re­serves in West

Tourism Tattler - - EDITORIAL - By José Pliya.

The to­tal in­vest­ment of USD$26 mil­lion over 10 years will be used to pro­tect and de­velop the Park span­ning 4,800 km2. The re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion of Pend­jari Na­tional Park is one of the 45 flag­ship projects of the “Re­veal­ing Benin” in­vest­ment pro­gramme, an­nounced by the Pres­i­dency of the Re­pub­lic of Benin in De­cem­ber 2016, and is the eleventh park un­der man­age­ment by African Parks on the con­ti­nent.

Pend­jari Na­tional Park: re­vi­tal­is­ing an ex­cep­tional wildlife re­serve

Pend­jari Na­tional Park, lo­cated in the north-west of Benin, is part of the WAP com­plex (W-Arly-Pend­jari) span­ning Benin, Burk­ina Faso and Niger. It is the largest re­main­ing in­tact ecosys­tem in the whole of West Africa and the last vast refuge for West African wildlife. With an area of 4,800km2, Pend­jari is home to ele­phant, buf­falo, lion, chee­tah, an­te­lope and many other species (hippo, tsessebe, Buf­fon's kob and De­fassa wa­ter­buck to name a few).

How­ever, this ex­cep­tional re­serve faces ma­jor threats in­clud­ing poach­ing, de­mo­graphic pres­sure on sur­round­ing land, as well as ex­po­nen­tial re­source ero­sion. As a re­sult, the Pres­i­dency of the Re­pub­lic of Benin has quickly put in place a plan to re­vi­talise and pro­tect the Park, as part of its in­vest­ment pro­gramme “Re­veal­ing Benin “. In a pro­gres­sive step the Gov­ern­ment of Benin is com­mit­ting $5.9M over 10 years, and ini­tial start-up funds are be­ing pro­vided by sev­eral donors in­clud­ing the Wyss Foun­da­tion who made a sig­nif­i­cant multi-year chal­lenge grant to African Parks to bring new parks un­der man­age­ment.

A long-term part­ner­ship

By sign­ing a part­ner­ship agree­ment, the Pres­i­dency of Benin and African Parks set a goal of dou­bling the Park's wildlife pop­u­la­tions within the next 10 years. The ac­tion plan for the Park aims to de­velop re­spon­si­ble tourism, and to en­sure the eco­nomic and so­cial de­vel­op­ment of the re­gion. Three main work streams have been iden­ti­fied:

1. Se­cu­rity for the in­hab­i­tants and the pro­tec­tion of an­i­mal species. Se­cur­ing Pend­jari is the main pri­or­ity of the agree­ment. A spe­cial brigade will be set up, with the re­cruit­ment of 10 of­fi­cers, non-com­mis­sioned of­fi­cers and spe­cialised tech­ni­cians, along with the train­ing of 90 guards. A com­mu­ni­ca­tions and ge­olo­ca­tion net­work will cover the en­tire site, and all in­for­ma­tion will be cen­tralised 24 hours a day at the oper­a­tions co­or­di­na­tion cen­tre. A 190 km perime­ter fence, 150 km of roads, an op­er­a­tional base, staff quar­ters, three guard posts and three small air­fields will also be con­structed.

2. Con­ser­va­tion of bio­di­ver­sity. In or­der to en­sure the suc­cess of this part­ner­ship, an in­ven­tory of all an­i­mal species will be car­ried out ev­ery two years. A tele­met­ric or spe­cific mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem of key species such as ele­phants, lions, leop­ards and chee­tahs - the prize species of Pend­jari - will be im­ple­mented. Sci­en­tific re­search will also be fos­tered through close col­lab­o­ra­tion with Beni­nese and for­eign uni­ver­si­ties and re­search or­gan­i­sa­tions.

3. Sus­tain­able eco­nomic im­pact and lo­cal com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment. A unique tourist of­fer­ing will be de­vel­oped, with the ob­jec­tive of in­creas­ing vis­i­tors from 6,000 to more than 9,000. The chal­lenge is to gen­er­ate more di­rect rev­enue for the man­age­ment of the Park, and to do so, African Parks will re­de­velop and man­age the ho­tel and lodge in Pend­jari.

Due to grow­ing de­mo­graphic pres­sure (the hu­man pop­u­la­tion sur­round­ing Pend­jari is ex­pected to in­crease from 50,000 in 2017 to

Benin, a French-speak­ing West African na­tion, is a birth­place of the vo­dun (or “voodoo”) re­li­gion and home to the for­mer Da­homey King­dom from circa 1600–1900. In Abomey, Da­homey's for­mer cap­i­tal, the His­tor­i­cal Mu­seum oc­cu­pies two royal palaces with bas­re­liefs re­count­ing the king­dom's past and a throne mounted on hu­man skulls. Pend­jari Na­tional Park lies to the north of Benin.

Cap­i­tal: Porto-Novo

Dial­ing code: +229

Pres­i­dent: Pa­trice Talon

Cur­rency: West African CFA franc

Pop­u­la­tion: 10.88 mil­lion (2015) World Bank

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