The great pyramids at Giza, EgyptElephants crossing the Zambezi river in Mana Pools National Park world heritage site, ZimbabweThe great mosque in the Old Towns of Djenne world heritage site, MaliBlack and white ruffed lemur, Rainforests of the Atsinanana world heritage site, Madagascar

Air and Tenere Natural Reserves - Niger

Map showing the location of the Air and Tenere Natural Reserves in Niger

In Danger Since 1992

Area: 77,000 km2
Inscribed: 1991.

Values: This is the largest protected area in Africa (twice the size of Switzerland), covering a vast swathe of desert and semi-desert land on the edge of the Sahara. At the time of inscription it supported a diverse desert fauna, and was considered to offer hope for the preservation of viable populations of desert antelopes such as addax, dama and dorcas gazelles as well ostrich and barbary sheep. Other key desert species disappeared earlier, notably the scimitar-horned oryx, last seen in 1983. Since then, a period of civil strife in northern Niger, and lack of management capacity, has resulted in a catastrophic decline of all the larger species - ostrich, dama gazelle and addax seem to have disappeared completely, and populations of dorcas gazelle and barbary sheep are now much reduced. 



Slideshow of the Air and Tenere Natural Reserves/world heritage site.    


Impressions (based on a visit in December 2005 and January 2006)The desert scenery is absolutely magnificent, and is attracting a growing number of international visitors to the area. This has the potential to provide a major incentive for conservation and serve as a significant engine for economic development. However, for most visitors, the reserve appears to be little more than a ‘paper park' at present, and needs a significant injection of funds to secure the remaining wildlife, and (ultimately) restore the characteristic fauna. In the long-term, a captive breeding and re-introduction programme is required for the major desert antelopes and other large fauna. There are plenty of people living in the reserve, and they are clearly having a negative impact on the fragile environment through the grazing of domestic stock, cultivation, tree-cutting, hunting, and even taking of animals for the live animal trade. During ten days in the reserve I saw only six dorcas gazelles, two of which were in the wild, while four had recently been taken from the wild and were being kept in captivity for later sale. Tourism is growing rapidly, but seems to be largely unregulated and gives the impression that ‘anything goes'. There are some first-rate operators, whilst others seem to have little understanding of what tourists require, and the standards of guiding that are expected: training is clearly needed.


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Air and Tenere Natural Reserves world heritage site - Niger Sand dunes at Temet, Air and Tenere Natural Reserves world heritage site - Niger Local woman, Air and Tenere Natural Reserves world heritage site - Niger Sands at the edge of the Tenere desert, Air and Tenere Natural Reserves world heritage site - Niger



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