Pendjari National Park

The Pendjari National Park (French: Parc National de la Pandjari) lies in north western Benin, adjoining the Arli National Park in Burkina Faso. Named for the Pendjari River, the national park is known for its wildlife and is home to some of the last populations of big game like elephants, West African lions, hippopotamuses, buffalo and various antelopes in West Africa. The Park is also famous for its richness in birds.

The Pendjari National Park is an area of 2755 square kilometres in the far north-west of Benin. The park is part of the WAP complex (W-Arli-Pendjari) which is a vast protected area in Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger. The hills and cliffs of the Atakora range make the northwest one the most scenic areas of Benin. They provide a wonderful backdrop to the Pendjari National Park, which, in its isolation, remains one of the most interesting in West Africa. In March 2009 it was nominated as a tentative site for UNESCO's World Heritage Site program.

Pendjari National Park is home to most of the typical game species of the western african savannahs. One of the rarest large mammals, which is still found in Pendjari, is the Northwest African cheetah. However, the cat is very rare now even in the National Park. There were perhaps only 5-13 individuals left in the National Park, including neighboring W National Park in 2007. The lion population of Pendjari and adjacent W National Park comprises of about 100 animals and is possibly the largest in all of western or central Africa. As a special feature, almost all male lions of the Pendjari area carry no manes or at best very weak manes. The value of the lion population gained additional importance, since a study indicated a genetic uniqueness of West African lions compared to lions from southern or eastern Africa. Originally, the endangered Painted Hunting Dog, Lycaon pictus, has been found in Pendjari National Park; and in the adjacent Arli National Park in Burkina Faso, is considered as possibly locally extirpated. It has been considered extirpated, but a few animals were confirmed during a study in April 2000. Other larger carnivore species include leopard, spotted hyena, side-striped jackal, and African civet.

Pendjari also has also a relatively large population of elephants. Their number was stable over the last decades and counts more than 800 individuals (years 2005-2010). Including neighboring W National Park and Arly National Park (WAP Complex), the whole population comprises more than 3,800 elephants, making it the largest elephant concentration in all of western Africa. The second largest animal of the park is the hippopotamus.

There are also good populations of several other large herbivores like Sudanese buffaloes (Syncerus caffer brachyceros; ca. 2,700 animals in 2000), Western hartebeests (Alcelaphus buselaphus major; ca. 1,500 in 2000), roan antelope (ca. 2,000 in 20000), kob antelope (ca. 2,600 in 2000), and warthogs. Some other antelope species like korrigum (Damaliscus lunatus korrigum), bushbuck, and reedbuck are relatively rare. Smaller bovids are red-flanked duiker, oribi, and common duiker. Primates are represented by olive baboon, patas monkey, and tantalus monkey.

The number of waterbucks (Kobus ellipsiprymnus defassa) decreased from about 3000 in the 1970s to only 120 in 2004.

The Park is renowned for its abundance of birds with some 300 different species in total. Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) and Lesser Kestrel (Falco naumanni) are occasionally recorded and there are a few isolated records for Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotus). Fox Kestrel (Falco alopex) is not uncommon, while the African Swallow-tailed Kite (Chelictinia riocourii) is a not uncommon dry season visitor. The Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) has also been recorded here. BirdLife notes that "the Pendjari is notable for large conspicuous species such as African Openbill Stork (Anastomus lamelligerus), Abdim's Stork (Ciconia abdimii), Saddle-billed Stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis), and seasonally, flocks of up to 60 European White Stork (Ciconia ciconia). The African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) and Pel's Fishing-owl (Scotopelia peli) can also be found."
Among the more notable species recorded are Pied-winged Swallow (Hirundo leucosoma), White-crowned Robin-chat (Cossypha albicapillus), Botta's Wheatear (Oenanthe bottae), Familiar Chat (Cercomela familiaris), White-fronted Black-chat (Myrmecocichla albifrons), Mocking Cliff-chat (Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris), Common Rock Thrush (Monticola saxitilis), Senegal Eremomela (Eremomela pusilla), Blackcap Babbler (Turdoides reinwardtii), Red-winged Pytilia (Pytilia phoenicoptera), Black-rumped Waxbill (Estrilda troglodytes), Bush Petronia (Petronia dentata) and Togo Paradise-whydah (Vidua togoensis).

Grey Tit-flycatcher (Myioparus plumbeus) has been recorded as well as several other species of the undergrowth. White-throated Greenbul (Phyllastrephus albigularis) has been recorded at TanguiƩta and the White-throated Francolin (Francolinus albogularis), a rare resident, has been spotted in farmland south of Natitingou. South of the park there is a large semi-protected zone known in French as La zone cygnetique de la Pendjari where a number of other species have been spotted.

The national park and the bird habitat is protected by the government in Benin.

Information based on