Pendjari National Park in Benin, Northwest Africa

The Pendjari National Park (French: Parc national de la Pendjari), located in the northwest of Benin, is an oasis of biodiversity and a shining example of wildlife preservation in West Africa. As an integral part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserves Network, the park covers an area of approximately 4,844 km2 according to the African Parks report in 2022.

National Park Facts

Pendjari National Park


Located within the largest remaining wilderness in West Africa, the Pendjari National Park has faced decades of challenges due to regional instability, inadequate resources, and human pressure. These factors have threatened wildlife and the surrounding communities. However, in 2017, the Government of Benin recognized the importance of protecting natural areas for wildlife conservation and the country’s socio-economic development. They invited African Parks to take over the management of Pendjari, which now covers approximately 4,844 km2 of protected area.
Since then, Pendjari has undergone a significant transformation. Under the administration of African Parks and with the support of a dedicated team of rangers, the park has become a haven of stability for both wildlife and local communities. Measures have been implemented to control unsustainable use of natural resources and combat poaching, allowing for wildlife protection.

Conservation of biodiversity in Pendjari has become a driver of socio-economic development for the surrounding communities. Employment, education, and healthcare opportunities have been created for thousands of people, significantly improving the quality of life for the local population.

Despite additional challenges posed by militant activity that has spilled over from Burkina Faso, park management and local authorities have worked closely to ensure the safety of both visitors and wildlife. A revised security strategy has been implemented, which has proven effective in protecting the park and reducing human-wildlife conflict.

Investment in infrastructure has been another key aspect of Pendjari’s transformation. Park fences have been improved, and other mitigation measures have been implemented to reduce human-wildlife encounters. This has led to a 70% reduction in conflicts between the local population and wildlife.

Furthermore, socio-economic initiatives have been promoted in surrounding communities, such as beekeeping and soybean production. These activities not only generate additional income for local households but also promote sustainable practices that benefit both people and the natural environment.

Despite persistent challenges, the Pendjari National Park remains a beacon of hope in one of Africa’s most vulnerable regions. It inspires the people of Benin to continue protecting their valuable biodiversity for future generations while providing opportunities for sustainable development and the well-being of local communities.

Geographical Location

The park is bordered by the Atakora mountain range to the south and the Pendjari and Mekrou rivers to the west and north, respectively. This strategic geographical position gives it a unique and vibrant ecosystem.

Historical and Cultural Significance of the Park

In addition to its ecological importance, Pendjari National Park is named after the historic Pendjari people. This park represents the cultural and natural heritage of the region, contributing to the knowledge and preservation of its history and traditions.

Pendjari’s Context within the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Network

Pendjari National Park is recognized by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve, highlighting its significance in biodiversity conservation and promoting sustainable development.

Biodiversity in Pendjari

The rich biodiversity of Pendjari is one of the main attractions of the park. It is home to an impressive variety of flora and fauna, some of which are endangered.

Notable Fauna

The park is home to one of the last populations of elephants and lions in West Africa. Additionally, hippos, buffalos, antelopes, and more than 300 bird species can also be found.

Characteristic Flora

Pendjari presents a wide variety of plants and trees. From gallery forests to savannas and dense shrublands, the floral diversity contributes to the beauty and ecological health of the park.

Importance of Conservation

Conserving biodiversity in Pendjari is essential to maintaining ecological balance, protecting endangered species, and preserving the natural heritage of the region.

Exploring Pendjari National Park

A visit to Pendjari National Park promises to be an unforgettable experience. From safaris to nature walks, there are many ways to explore and enjoy the beauty of the park.

Points of Interest within the Park

Highlighted points of interest include the impressive Tanougou waterfall, the spectacular Pendjari Gorge, and various viewpoints where the diversity of landscapes and wildlife can be appreciated.

Popular Routes and Paths

There are several routes to explore the park, some of which offer the opportunity to see animals in their natural habitat. The Batia route, for example, is popular due to its high concentration of wildlife.

Viewpoints and Panoramic Views

The viewpoints in Pendjari National Park offer stunning panoramic views. An example is the Arli viewpoint, from which visitors can have a clear vision of the vast landscape and wildlife.

Safari and Animal Watching Opportunities

Safaris in Pendjari are an excellent way to experience the rich biodiversity of the park. With expert guides, visitors have the chance to observe animals up close in their natural habitat.

Cultural Experiences

A visit to Pendjari National Park is not complete without exploring the local culture and traditions of the region.

Local Communities

Local communities bring an element of authenticity and a unique experience to the visit. Meeting these communities offers the opportunity to learn about their way of life and their relationship with the natural environment.

Handicrafts and Local Products

Local crafts and products from the region are a reflection of Benin’s rich culture. Visiting local markets, one can find handmade objects, textiles, and delicious local meals.

Events and Festivals

Local events and festivals provide a unique insight into the culture and traditions of the region. These events may include traditional dances, music, and religious ceremonies.

Tips for Visitors

To ensure a safe and enjoyable visit to Pendjari National Park, there are several things visitors should keep in mind.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Pendjari is during the dry season, which extends from November to February. During this period, animals often gather around water sources, making it easier to spot them.

Getting to Pendjari National Park

The park is accessible by road from Cotonou, the capital of Benin, or from Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso. Additionally, there are local flights landing at the nearby Natitingou airport.

Accommodation and Nearby Services

There are several accommodation options near the park, from luxury hotels to more rustic campgrounds. Additionally, restaurants and shops can be found in nearby towns to stock up on supplies.

Rules and Recommendations for the Visit

It is important to respect the park’s rules to ensure the safety and conservation of the ecosystem. This includes not feeding the animals, staying on marked paths, and not littering.

Challenges and Opportunities in Pendjari National Park Conservation

The conservation of Pendjari National Park faces several challenges but also offers opportunities for active participation and sustainable development.

Threats to Biodiversity and the Park’s Ecosystem

Major threats include poaching, climate change, and the expansion of human activities. These factors can affect the survival of wildlife and the integrity of the ecosystem.

Current Conservation Strategies

Several strategies are in place to preserve and protect Pendjari National Park. These include implementing anti-poaching laws, promoting ecotourism, and collaborating with local communities for sustainable park management.

Opportunities for Volunteering and Citizen Participation

Pendjari National Park offers opportunities for volunteering and citizen participation. Visitors and locals can get involved in various activities such as park clean-ups, environmental education, and contributing to conservation projects.

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