The W du Bénin National Park, in the extreme north of the country, is part of an extensive network of contiguous transboundary protected areas, including the W National Park in Niger (IBA NE001) and the Arli–W–Singou complex in Burkina Faso (BF008). The park includes extensive areas of Sudan savanna vegetation, and important riparian habitats along stretches of the Mékrou and Alibori rivers, both major tributaries of the Niger river, which form, respectively, the western and eastern boundaries of the park. There is a narrow neck of land outside the park separating its north-eastern boundary from the Niger river itself. This area is, however, included within the IBA, thereby capturing the perennial marshy areas that fringe the Niger. Both the Alibori and Mékrou rivers are seasonal, although some pools of stagnant water usually remain within the beds of both in the dry season. The Mékrou river, which also marks the international frontier with Burkina Faso for much of its length, is 10–20 m wide and 2–3 m deep at the height of the wet season, September, and usually dries up by December.Habitat includes riverine forest with a dense understorey and a nearly closed canopy, with patches of shrubland and woodland. Trees present include Diospyros mespiliformis, Ficus sp., Daniella sp., Cola sp. and scattered Borassus aethiopum palms. Mimosa pigra is common in the riverine scrub. The Sudan savanna includes Acacia spp., Terminalia sp. and Combretum spp. and grasslands of Hyparrhenia involucrata and Andropogon gayanus. There is a spectacular gorge through which the Mékrou runs near its confluence with the River Niger. The terrain of the northern part of the park is more broken with numerous outcrops, but the highest point of 320 m is in the south of the park.
See Box and Table 2 for key species. Falco naumanni has been recorded occasionally between January and March. The reserve harbours a representative community of Northern Guinea savanna and Sudan savanna species, while the course of the Niger river is important for wetland birds such as Ardea goliath, A. cinerea, Ciconia abdimii, Plegadis falcinellus and Balearica pavonina. Other species of note are Trigonoceps occipitalis (breeding), Terathopius ecaudatus, Scotopelia peli and, along the banks of the Mékrou, several large colonies of Merops nubicus, occupied during January and February.
Non-bird biodiversity: Among mammals, the park is host to the most important savanna population of Loxodonta africana (EN) in West Africa, as well as populations of Panthera leo (VU) and Acinonyx jubatus (VU). Damaliscus lunatus korrigum (LR/cd) has been seen in the park and Trichechus senegalensis (VU) may occur in the Niger close to or within the IBA.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The park was established in 1936 and notified in 1954. Legitimate insecticide use (spraying with Endosulphan to control tsetse) was tested in the late 1970s, with adverse effects on the fauna of the Mékrou river, which probably also affected birds. Poaching occurs. Plans for the possible construction of dams on the Niger and Mékrou rivers and for phosphate mining could, if implemented, have severe environmental consequences. There is continuous encroachment by subsistence farmers and nomadic pastoralists leading to vegetation degradation and competition for grazing between livestock and wild herbivores.
BirdLife International (2020) Important Bird Areas factsheet: W du Bénin National Park. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 08/07/2020.