Facts About W-Arly-Pendjari Complex: A UNESCO World Heritage Site | Kidadl


Facts About W-Arly-Pendjari Complex: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

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The W-Arly-Pendjari Complex is recognized for its biodiversity of birds, fish, and plants.

It stretches across three countries of West Africa, namely Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Located within the Volta River basin, it is dotted with a high diversity of flora and fauna in the African Savannah belt.

This complex contains several protected areas that include the transboundary based around a W-shaped bend in the Niger River, the Pendjari National Park in Benin, and Arly National Park (ANP) in Burkina Faso.


With the rich national parks and protected areas, the WAP Complex is located near the Volta River basin. This region is one of the few savanna ecosystems in West and Central Africa. The majority of the complex area lies in Benin (43% of the area), followed by Burkina Faso (36%) and Niger (21%), respectively.

The main rivers, namely the Niger River, Mekrou, Alibori, and Pendjari, represent the primary water sources of the WAP Complex.

The W Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (WTBR) area includes an extensive collection of peneplains dotted with granitic inselbergs and hills. The relief is characterized by the Atakora range, the Cliffs of Gobnangou in Burkina Faso, and further from the southwest of the park. The geology in these peneplains is dominated by Precambrian and Cambrian rocks of volcanic origin.

The Arly National Park (ANP) lies on an old peneplain with few altitudinal varying between 492 ft (150 m) and 738 ft (225 m). In the southern part, the altitude on the cliffs of Gobnangou elevates to 1148 ft (350 m). The main types of soil in this park consist of poorly developed soils and tropical ferruginous soils.

The Pendjari National Park (PNP) lies on a flat relief peneplain with altitudes varying from 344 ft (105 m) to 656 ft (200 m). This plain is embarked to the south by the Atacora mountain range (formed by quartzites) with altitudes varying from 1312 ft (400 m) to 1638 ft (500 m). With fine-structure-hydromorphic soils, its northern and eastern borders are occupied by the Pendjari River.


The WAP complex is a refuge for several highly threatened species of wild animals across West Africa. It is an abode to 80 reptiles, 460 bird species, 120 fish species, and several insect diversity.

There are 70 species of mammals, out of which include 10 species of antelope and three species of primates. Four of Africa's 'Big Five' charismatic wildlife, namely the Lion, Elephant, Buffalo, and Leopard, live in this region.

It is found that the West African manatees swim up the Niger River, which borders the park. Interestingly, the WAP Complex has around 8,900 elephants, 416 lions, and probably the only population of Cheetahs in West Africa.

The movement of elephants and buffalos occurs mainly between the two protected area blocks, namely the WPNs and the Pendjari National Park, and rarely outside. However, the movement of lions happens throughout the Complex and becomes more challenging to monitor.

Cheetah in the WAP Complex.

World Heritage Site

UNESCO recognized the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex as a 'World Heritage Site' in 2017. This site represents a globally outstanding transboundary landscape of the wild ecosystem in West Africa under three criteria (ix) and (x).

Criteria (ix) envisioned by UNESCO needs the site to represent ongoing ecological and biological processes. It focuses on the development of different ecosystems in this region.

The WAP complex has a high diversity of flora and fauna. The flora here is diverse and includes wooded savannah, shrub, grasslands, and open forests. Primarily, Pendjari National park features the semi-deciduous forests of Bondjagou.

This complex fulfills the criteria (x) focused on in-situ conservation of biological diversity. It acts as a regional stronghold for several threatened species of outstanding universal value, which includes Elephant (Loxodonta Africana), Lions (Panthera Leo), West African Giraffes (Giraffa Camelopardalis Peralta), African Wild Dogs (Lycaon Pictus), Cheetah (Acinonyx Jubatus), Leopards (Panthera Pardus), and many more.

However, the biodiversity of the WAP Complex still faces various threats that include agricultural encroachment, transhumance within parks, heavy poaching, exploitation of forest products, uncontrolled bushfires, and fish overexploitation.

Protection And Management

Since the WAP Complex is spread across three countries, the major challenge lies in transboundary management. The management structures of the WAP complex include the Ministry Committee of Orientation (CMO) and the Technical Committee of Control (CTS).

CMO acts as a steering committee at a regional level. It takes all the decision which is directed by the Ministers in charge of protected area management of three countries.

At the regional level, the management of the WAP Complex is supported by a number of national, regional, and international laws. CENAGREF is the national office in charge of Pendjari park and WTBR in Benin at the national level management. Two different national institutions govern the protected areas in Burkina Faso and Niger.

At the local level, the local communities are provided opportunities to participate in wildlife management activities and become tourists guides too. The local communities in Burkina Faso and Niger are 'Comité Villageoise de Gestion la Faune (CVGF)' and 'Comité Foncière de Base (COFOB)' respectively.

Other Miscellaneous Facts

The wetlands of the WTBR were recognized as 'wetlands of international importance' under the Ramsar Convention in 2007.

It provides a habitat for the associated wildlife. There are more than 340 villages within 15.5 mi (25 km) of the WAP complex.

It was also found that around 10,000 people reside in the buffer zone of the WAP complex carrying out agricultural activities and also transhumance (a form of nomadism). While it affects only 5% of the total area, it is distressing to see poaching and the killing of wildlife.


What is W-Arly-Pendjari Complex about?

The WAP Complex located in West Africa hosts several national parks protecting threatened species of wildlife animals and also flora.

Why is W-Arly-Pendjari Complex important?

The WAP Complex is crucial to the conservation of the rare mammals belonging to the Sahelian and Sudanian domains. It is recognized for its biodiversity of birds, fish, and plants. It is also the home to Cheetahs which are not found in any other part of West Africa.

Where is W-Arly-Pendjari Complex located?

The WAP Complex (located near the Volta River basin) is spread across three countries of West Africa, namely Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger.

What animal species are protected under W-Arly-Pendjari Complex?

70 mammals species, 80 reptiles, 460 bird species, 120 fish species, and several insect diversity are protected under the WAP Complex.

Why and when was W-Arly-Pendjari Complex declared as a World Heritage Site?

The WAP Complex was recognized as a 'World Heritage Site' in 2017. This site is a refuge for highly threatened wildlife like Cheetahs and Lions.

<p>With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".</p>

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