The ‘W’ National Park lies 150 km south of Niamey, at the point where Niger, Burkina Faso and Benin meet. Together with the contiguous parks of the same name in Burkina Faso (part of IBA BF008) and Benin (BJ001), it forms the largest tract of protected savanna in West Africa. In the north-east the boundary of the park is formed by the Niger river. The river here makes several sharp turns, which together form the shape of the letter ‘W’ from which the park takes its name. In the south the boundary is formed by the Mékrou river (which also forms the international frontier with Benin), in the west by the international border with Burkina Faso and in the north by the Tapoa river. Large parts of the park are rocky, as a result of outcroppings of metamorphic Precambrian rocks (e.g. quartzites, schists and gneisses). In certain areas, these are overlain by Tertiary sediments, which give rise to widespread laterite-capped plateaus. Along the three rivers there are Quaternary alluvial flood-plains. The vegetation is predominantly wooded savanna and shrubland, transitional between the Sahelian and Sudanian savanna-types, together with a small amount of grassland. In addition to the flood-plains along the Niger river, there are gallery forests along its main tributaries and a number of ephemeral pools and wetlands in upland areas. Average annual rainfall in the park for the period 1961–1990 was c.700 mm.
See Box and Table 2 for key species. At least 355 species of bird have been recorded from the park, of which at least 48 are intra-African wet-season migrants, 63 intra-African dry season migrants and 63 dry-season migrants from Eurasia. Several species of global conservation concern have been recorded. In addition to Circus macrourus, of which more than 30 are likely to be present annually during the northern winter, Falco naumanni is a rare dry-season visitor. There is also a possible observation of Prinia fluviatilis from just north of the park boundary in suitable habitat, which also occurs within the park. Of the Sudan–Guinea Savanna species, Coracias cyanogaster and Galerida modesta are dry-season vagrants while Hypergerus atriceps isa rare dry-season visitor. All other 18 species are proven or likely breeders. The six species of the Sahel biome occur mostly during the dry season and all are uncommon to rare. However this site, together with Makalondi (NE002), are the only IBAs in the non-breeding range of some of the Sahelian species.The various aquatic habitats are important for waterbirds. The largest single waterfowl count during January–February 1993–1998 was of 10,337 birds in 1997, along the Niger river only. Further counts may reveal totals of more than 20,000 waterbirds. Significant observations include a group of nine Ciconia nigra at a small wetland in January 1998 while, in March 1997, 1,412 Sarkidiornis melanotos, 7,979 Dendrocygna viduata and 325 Plectropterus gambensis were counted on the river. In addition, there are quite large rookeries of egrets, etc. in the interior of the park, which have never been properly censused.
Non-bird biodiversity: A total of 82 species of mammal have been identified, including Loxodonta africana (EN), Panthera leo (VU), Acinonyx jubatus (VU), Syncerus caffer (LR/cd) and 11 species of antelope; Trichechus senegalensis (VU) also occurs.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The area now occupied by the park was first identified as a potential reserve in 1926. It was created the first protected area in Niger in 1937, classified as a Total Faunal Reserve in 1953 and declared a National Park in 1954. In addition, it was designated a Ramsar Site in 1987. In 1962, two reserves adjoining the park were created as buffer zones: these are Dosso Partial Reserve (306,000 ha) to the north-east, on the other side of the Niger river and Tamou Total Fauna Reserve, to the north of the Tapoa river.An initial long-term management plan, drafted in 1982, sought to address the issues of poaching and disturbance, burning by poachers and pastoralists, illegal grazing (made possible by eradication of tsetse fly; up to 10,000–15,000 head of cattle are thought to be present illegally during the wet season), illegal cutting of trees and collection of other natural products, illegal fishing, construction of new roads and tourism. However, this management plan has not been followed up and the park is currently managed using yearly or short-term plans. Other threats include the mining of phosphate and the construction of dams. In January 1999, the Niger and Benin governments signed an agreement concerning the construction of the Dyodyonga Hydroelectric Facility in the gorge in the Mékrou river on the southern boundary of the park (c.12°18’N 02°37’E). In addition to the generation of electricity that the project will allow, it is intended that the development of small and medium-sized industries will follow, as well as the exploitation of mineral resources in the Mékrou area. The possible consequences of this on the park are unknown and have not, apparently, been addressed.
BirdLife International (2018) Important Bird Areas factsheet: 'W' National Park. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 18/02/2018.