Benin’s Pendjari National Park, one of West Africa’s largest remaining strongholds for the elephant and the critically endangered West African lion, has now received a major funding boost.
Four groups — the U.S.-based National Geographic Society and Wyss Foundation, South Africa-based African Parks, and the government of Benin — announced on Jan. 31 a combined commitment of more than $23 million to secure and restore the Pendjari National Park. This partnership hopes to “revitalize Pendjari’s extraordinary landscape through increased operational effectiveness, scientific research, innovative technology and visually compelling storytelling,” according to a press release from African Parks.
“Today’s announcement is a testament to the power of partnerships,” Gary E. Knell, president and CEO of the National Geographic Society, said in the statement. “Combining forces with African Parks, the Wyss Foundation and the government of Benin, we are capitalizing on the unique capabilities of each organization — including on-the-ground management, cutting-edge science and exploration and storytelling prowess — to create an unprecedented model for conservation.”
The Pendjari National Park, covering an area of 2,755 square kilometers (1,063 square miles), is part of the WAP complex (comprising the W, Arly and Pendjari national parks), a large expanse of relatively intact savanna that straddles Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger.
The park is home to some of Africa’s rarest mammals, including the critically endangered West African lion (Panthera leo senegalensis) and Saharan or Northwest African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus hecki). Pendjari also harbors thriving populations of elephant, buffalo, antelope and numerous species of small mammals, fish and birds. The Pendjari complex is currently threatened by poaching, agricultural expansion along the park’s periphery, rising livestock numbers, illegal logging and illegal fishing.
“The Pendjari National Park is an exceptional reserve, which was under threat because of poaching,” Benin President Patrice Talon said in a statement.
“This partnership with African Parks, National Geographic and Wyss Foundation encourages us to continue our efforts to reveal the potential of the Pendjari. The international collaboration for this reserve is extraordinary, especially because it comes at a time when my government is committed to making tourism a lever for long-term development. It is all at once a matter of preservation of our environment and our natural resources, sustainable tourism and social impact