Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Benin to invest in one of West Africa’s last wildlife havens

Benin to invest in one of West Africa’s last wildlife havens 

Benin on Wednesday announced a 10-year plan to rehabilitate Pendjari National Park, one of the last viable wildlife reserves in west Africa.

Like other west African countries, Benin is struggling to preserve its natural ecosystems in the face of rapid population growth, poaching and resource extraction, including mining and logging.

Pendjari — in Benin’s far northwest on the border with Burkina Faso — is one of only a handful of parks in the region that still boasts elephants, lions, buffalo, cheetah and antelope. The goal is to double the park’s wildlife populations within a decade, Benin’s government said in a statement.

“The action plan for the park aims to develop responsible tourism and to ensure the economic and social development of the region,” it said. One of the first priorities of the plan, a $26-million (23-million-euro) partnership between Benin and conservation non-governmental organisation African Parks, is to secure Pendjari’s borders and protect the wildlife from poachers.

A special brigade including 10 officers and 90 guards will be set up, tasked with patrolling a 190-kilometre (120-mile) perimeter fence and 150 kilometres of roads.

The plan will also see scientific monitoring of key species and the development of the region’s tourism industry, the government said. Wildlife watching constitutes 80 per cent of trips to Africa, where visits by international tourists generate $36 billion, according to an October 2015 report published by the African Development Bank Group.

But most of that money goes to South Africa and Kenya, countries that have promoted a thriving wildlife tourism industry.

Years of mismanagement in west Africa have left the region’s parks in desperate need of investment and visitors.

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