Niger is located in Western Africa, and is bordered by Nigeria, Libya, Algeria, Chad, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Mali. The country encompasses an area of 489,678 square miles. The northern part of the region is covered by deserts while grasslands can be found in the south. Niger is home to several national parks and protected areas in order to preserve its natural habitats. This practice first began under French colonial rule in 1936. Today, most of the protected areas are managed by the Natural Resource Management Unit. This article takes a look at some of the most important national parks in this country.
Air and Ténéré Natural Reserve
The Air and Ténéré Natural Reserve is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a wildlife sanctuary. It covers an area of 29,869 square miles, making it the second largest nature reserve in Africa and the fourth largest in the world. This reserve stretches over both the Air Mountains and the Ténéré Saharan Desert. The Air region is surrounded by the Saharan Desert which has isolated it from other environmental changes and from human activity. This isolation has allowed for the survival of a large number of plants and animals that have become extinct in other regions of Niger. Some of the endangered species here include the Dorcus gazelle, the Leptocere gazelle, and the Addax. There are 40 mammal species, 165 bird species, 18 reptile species, and 1 amphibian species living on this reserve.
Dosso Partial Faunal Reserve
The Dosso Partial Faunal Reserve encompasses an area of 1,183 square miles in the southwestern region of Niger. It is located in the Dallol Bosso river valley. This park was designated in an attempt to protect the lives of elephants, hippos, West African giraffe, and a variety of gazelles. This reserve is a major stop along the migration path of one herd of these giraffe in particular, the last sustainable group of West African giraffes.
Gadabedji Total Reserve
Another top national park in Niger is the Gadabedji Total Reserve, which is spread over an area of 293 square miles. It is located in the central part of the country in the northern area of the Maradi Region. This reserve became protected land when it was established in 1955. The ecological habitat within the park is a Sahelian wooded steppe and grassland, home to a diverse number of species. This region was selected in order to protect its population of Sahelo-Saharan antelope, particularly the Oryx and Dama gazelle. The government and other nonprofits have plans to reintroduce the Oryx to this reserve.
Tadres Total Reserve
The Tadres Total Reserve encompasses a total area of 3,046 square miles. It is located in the Tadrés River valley in the north central region of Niger. This area was protected in order to preserve the Oryx population that migrates through here. Now, the Oryx has nearly disappeared the and the reserve is home to grazing cattle and camels. Dorcas and Ménas gazelles also inhabit the reserve.
Environmental Threats to Niger’s National Parks
Some of the biggest environmental threats in Niger include unsustainable agricultural techniques, land development, wildfires, increasing human population sizes, and illegal animal poaching. All of these factors have drastically reduced the number of important plant and animal species throughout the country, including the West African lion, Northwest African cheetah, elephants, buffalo, and West African giraffes. Although these parks are legally protected, Niger lacks the financial and human resources to enforce these protective laws. Unfortunately, this means that some of the general environmental threats find their way into the national parks as well, furthering threatening these species.