Gray countries with texture denote areas of future engagement.
Wildlife knows no boundaries. So AWF has defined areas across the continent that are critical to conservation. These Priority Landscapes can cover public and private lands alike and often cross borders.
4,016,601 hectares (15,508 sq. mi.)
Drawing life from three rivers and centered on the point where Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger meet, the Regional Parc W Heartland makes up the largest tract of protected savanna in West Africa. A vast array of wildlife lives in this Heartland, including the only remaining population of the West African giraffe and the largest savanna elephant population in the region. Consisting of three consecutive national parks and several adjacent reserves and buffer zones, the Regional Parc W Heartland is a rich expanse of savanna woodlands, arid shrubland, riverside forests, and flooded plains.
People need trees to build. Giraffes need them to eat.
Distinguished from other giraffe subspecies by their light spots, West African giraffes once ranged widely from Senegal to Chad. Now only 250 of them remain in the wild in a small area outside of Parc W in Niger. And even here, the lanky leaf eaters are threatened by human settlements encroaching on their habitat. As surrounding populations rise, people use increasing amounts of wood to cook and build new homes—turning the giraffes’ main source of food into fuel and construction materials.
Wanted: land near water, with edible plants.
Many communities in and around the Regional Parc W Heartland depend on small-scale agriculture for their livelihoods. In this dry region where rain is seasonal, farmers and wildlife look for the same thing when it comes to real estate: water. As a result, farms are cropping up next to protected areas and in the middle of wildlife corridors. Elephants and giraffes traveling along their usual routes often stop for a snack or damage crops by trampling them. With their families’ food and income on the line, farmers retaliate by injuring or killing the animals.
Our solutions to the challenges in the Regional Parc W Heartland:
Plant new trees for a timeless landscape.
African Wildlife Foundation worked with communities in and around the Doss Partial Reserve in Niger to help restore the thorn tree habitat that West African giraffes depend on. We started by identifying the most degraded areas in partnership with the Niger Wildlife Authority and the Association for the Valorisation of Ecotourism in Niger (AVEN). In these deforested places, AWF partnered with the Association to Safeguard the Giraffes of Niger to establish village nurseries to grow thorn tree seedlings. Communities have replanted thousands of trees, with local women sowing the majority of the seeds.
Help scouts help wildlife.
AWF has provided monitoring equipment and training to park guards, rangers, and guides in all three countries of the Regional Parc W Heartland. AWF supplied Global Positioning System (GPS) units, cameras, and binoculars for the AVEN giraffe guides and the rangers of the Pendjari Biosphere Reserve in Benin and Parc W Burkina. AWF also equipped Parc W Niger’s cadre of 20 eco-guards with uniforms, bicycles, and GPS units. With the appropriate tools at their disposal, staff in the field can monitor and protect endangered species effectively.
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