Pendjari National Park or 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 north-west one of 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.
The rocky cliffs of the area are sparsely wooded with Burkea africana, Detarium microcarpum, Lannea acida, Sterculia setigera and Combretum ghasalense. On the deep soils of some of the summits and the Atakora escarpment one finds a greater variety of plant species with Isoberlinia doka and Afzelia africana.
The Pendjari River has an impressive gallery forest. The park includes both Sudan and Northern Guinea savannas, with areas of grassland dominated by Acacia sieberiana and Mitragyna inermis or Terminalia macroptera. There is a high annual rainfall of around 1100 mm; The park is open year-round, although from June–November rainfall can be heavy and certain parts of the park may be inaccessible.
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 (Acinonyx jubatus hecki). 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 consists 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 (Panthera leo senegalensis) compared to lions from southern or eastern Africa.
Originally, the endangered West African wild dog (Lycaon pictus manguensis) was 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 African leopard, spotted hyena, side-striped jackal, and African civet.
Pendjari is an important refuge for the African elephant in West Africa
Pendjari also has 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 includes 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; c. 2,700 animals in 2000), western hartebeests (Alcelaphus buselaphus major; c. 1,500 in 2000), roan antelope (c. 2,000 in 2000), kob antelope (c. 2,600 in 2000), and warthogs. Some other antelope species like korrigum (Damaliscus lunatus korrigum), bushbuck, and reedbuck are relatively rare. smaller bovids are the 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 storks (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 Tanguiéta 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.
Recently introduced bird species
Fox kestrel (Falco alopex) resident 1998
Red-thighed sparrowhawk (Accipiter erythropus) resident 1998
Senegal parrot (Poicephalus senegalus) resident 1998
Violet turaco (Musophaga violacea) resident 1998
Blue-bellied roller (Coracias cyanogaster) resident 1998
Red-throated bee-eater (Merops bulocki) resident 1998
Bearded barbet (Lybius dubius) resident 1998
Yellow-billed shrike (Corvinella corvina) resident 1998
Piapiac (Ptilostomus afer) resident 1998
Yellow penduline-tit (Anthoscopus parvulus) resident 1998
Fanti saw-wing (Psalidoprocne obscura) resident 1998
Pied-winged swallow (Hirundo leucosoma) resident 1998
Senegal eremomela (Eremomela pusilla) resident 1998
Blackcap babbler (Turdoides reinwardii) resident 1998
Purple glossy-starling (Lamprotornis purpureus) resident 1998
White-crowned robin-chat (Cossypha albicapilla) resident 1998
Bush petronia (Petronia dentata) resident 1998
Red-winged pytilia (Pytilia phoenicoptera) resident 1998
Red-faced pytilia (Pytilia hypogrammica) resident 1998
Lavender waxbill (Estrilda caerulescens) resident 1998
Black-rumped waxbill (Estrilda troglodytes) resident 1998
Togo paradise-whydah (Vidua togoensis) resident 1998
Arli National Park
Arli National Park often called Arly is a national park located in southeastern Burkina Faso. It adjoins Benin's Pendjari National Park in the South and the Singou Reserve in the West.
The Arli National Park is set in 760 square kilometres with a wide variety of habitats, ranging from the gallery forests of the Arli and Pendjari rivers to savanna woodland and sandstone hills of the Gobnangou chain.
It is home to around 200 elephants, 200 hippos and 100 lion. There are also buffalo, baboons, red and green monkeys, warthog, boar and various antelope such as western hartebeest and roan antelope. There are also bushbucks, duikers and waterbuck.
The park can be accessed via the N19 highway via Diapaga,in the dry season also via Pama. Arli National Park has several pools, such as Tounga where there is a waterhole and there are two pools which are often visited by up to twenty hippos.
The park was earlier a habitat for the West African wild dog (Lycaon pictus manguensis),although this is likely extirpated from the local area due to an expanding human population and a lack of national protection.