The National Nature Reserve of the Aïr and the Teneré covers the eastern half of the Aïr massif and the western part of the Ténéré Desert. The Aïr massif reaches 2,022 m (1,988 m within the reserve). It was called the ‘Switzerland’ of Africa by the explorer Barth in 1850, and may be regarded as a Sahelian outpost in the Sahara. The Aïr–Ténéré forms a complex mosaic of arid and hyper-arid environments. Five principal habitats are recognized: mountains, plateaus, large wadis (dry watercourses), small-scale irrigated horticultural areas, and stony or sandy desert. Standing water may occur for longer or shorter periods in all five habitats.
See Box and Table 2 for key species. Information derives mainly from Newby etal. (1987) and Newby and Canney (1989?); the latter list 164 species for the reserve. Of these, 41% are resident, 12% are intra-Africa migrants (mostly present only during the rains) with the remaining 46% wintering or passage migrants from the Palearctic. Neotis nuba is known to breed and is present all year. Given the size of the reserve, the population is likely to be important (>10 pairs likely); in 1989 there were 38 observations of at least 47 birds. The (northern) Aïr appears to be on a migration route of Circus macrourus, with several observations from March and June. Other notable species include Struthio camelus. All 14 Sahara–Sindian biome species known from Niger have been reported. Of these, 12 are resident breeders, Pterocles coronatus is either resident or a breeding migrantwhile Falco concolor is probably merely vagrant. Of the eight Sahel biome species reported from the reserve, seven are breeding residents while Spiloptila clamans was only observed once. Ardeotis arabs, Caprimulgus eximius and Anthoscopus punctifrons may also occur, but have so far only been reported from nearby areas.
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals of global conservation concern include Acinonyx jubatus 127>(VU), Gazella dorcas (VU), G. dama (EN) and Ammotragus lervia (VU). Oryx gazella dammah (EW) and Addax nasomaculatus (CR) used to occur, but are presumed to do so no longer. The reserve is one of the few places in the world where wild olive Olea laperrinei still occurs.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The National Nature Reserve of the Aïr and the Teneré was proclaimed in 1988. A Strict Nature Reserve, also called the Addax Sanctuary, was established within the boundaries of the Nature Reserve at the same time, covering 1,280,500 ha. The reserve also contains important archaeological and palaeontological sites. The two reserves were declared a World Heritage Site in 1991. The reserve belongs to the state, which appoints the team responsible for its (participatory) management. The Niger Government, WWF and IUCN used to run a large development project in the reserve, which sought the sustainable use of resources to the benefit of the inhabitants of the reserve and the preservation of their traditional activities of livestock-raising, market gardening and transport by camel caravans. In addition, the project tried to develop new forms of sustainable utilization of natural resources, including tourism. The project had to be discontinued in 1990 because of armed rebellion. Moves to re-open the project began in 1997. Although little information is available, larger wildlife in particular is likely to have suffered from shooting and poaching during the period of rebellion, as well as at other times, including by the armed forces. The local population is much involved in the management project, and tries to maintain earlier achievements. There is, however, no formal management plan for the reserve; instead, two- or three-year programmes are formulated on a rolling basis. Other threats include tourist vehicles pursuing wildlife to obtain photographs, overgrazing, competition/disturbance by livestock, over-exploitation of firewood (near centres of population), the illegal commercial collection of wood and the failure of reserve authorities to obtain the full recognition of the reserve by other government departments.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: NNR Aïr - Ténéré. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 23/02/2020.