Since the beginning of 2012, the African Wildlife Foundation began a project on the monitoring of elephant and giraffe populations in the WAP ecosystem in West Africa.
The WAP or W – Arly – Pendjari ecosystem, covering more than 35,000 sqkm in three countries (Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger) is one of the richest biodiversity areas in the Sudanian belt of West Africa. This ecosystem hosts the largest populations in the region for several species such as the savanna elephant and the savanna buffalo. The only remaining west African giraffe population lives in this ecosystem. Like in many other places, this ecosystem is threatened by habitat degradation, poaching, human-wildlife conflicts... most of these problems being consequences of the reliance of local populations on natural resources and their poverty. With all of these threats, species such as elephants and giraffes that require large territories are particularly vulnerable to these perturbations. The interface between these species and humans increase amplifying conflicts with humans. The vulnerability of elephant and giraffe populations in the region has led AWF to begin in 2012 a pilot project on elephant and giraffe in one of the biodiversity hotspot in the Sudanian belt of West Africa. The project is mainly funded by the Swedish Postcode Lottery Foundation, and the elephant collaring project with some activities is funded by the MAVA Nature Foundation.
This project’s overall objective is to monitor and map elephant and giraffe movements across the WAP landscape as a means to improve habitat conservation and land use planning in the region, while ensuring that human populations benefit from these improvements and that human–wildlife conflicts (HWC) are better mitigated and managed.
The specific objectives regarding elephants are:
a)Map the ranging patterns of elephant in the WAP ecosystem, identify elephant migration corridors and identify areas that could benefit from improved management to encourage the return of elephant;
b)Identify the main ecological and human factors that influence elephant distribution;
c)Assess the importance of human-elephant conflicts;
d)Encourage an inclusive and participative approach to elephant conservation with the involvement of local populations living in peripheral areas.
With regards to the giraffe, the specific objectives are:
a)To track and monitor giraffe movements;
b)To monitor human-giraffe conflicts;
c)To strengthen the capacity of local guides, trackers, and park management authorities to undertake monitoring professionally and unassisted;
d)To examine ways to reduce wood consumption and pressure on giraffe habitats, and invest in community reforestation initiatives; and
e)To convene a national level meeting to improve giraffe conservation activities in Niger.
The project is implemented with the park’s staff, local communities, and some active NGOs in the area.
Since January some activities have been implemented. Unfortunately an important delay has been observed in several activities due to field and administrative constraints. In the coming days and months, I will keep you informed on what has been and is being done.