Wildlife of Niger

Photo of a West African Giraffe, also called the Niger Giraffe, near Koure, Niger. (Wikipedia by  Roland H.)

Excellent article from Lonely Planet’s Year of Watching Wildlife Spotting wildlife in Niger’s Aïr & Ténéré Natural Reserves

The Aïr and Ténéré Natural Reserves of northern Niger protect a fabulously desolate landscape of rugged mountains and immense sand seas considered the finest in the Sahara. At 77,300 sq km, this is the largest – and some might say most spectacular – protected area in all of Africa, and the scale of this place is stunning.

Very interesting report (2011) by John Newby of the Sahara Conservation Fund on Saharan cheetahs & small carnivores in the Termit Mountains in Niger.

The Indepedent

Niger Wildlife: In search of the addax – Playboy hunters with helicopters and Kalashnikovs are driving the Sahel’s fragile population of wild animals to extinction.

The Termit and Tin Toumma regions of Niger, harbor a unique community of carnivores, including four sympatric canids (golden jackal, Rüppell’s fox, pale fox and fennec), two sympatric small cat species (sand cat and African wild cat) and larger predators such as caracal, cheetah and striped hyena. The Saharan race of the cheetah is very rare, and one of the most specialized and threatened in Africa. Globally, the distribution and status of Saharan carnivores are very poorly known, with several species listed simply as “Data Deficient” in the 2009 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species – meaning that not enough information on their basic biology exists to evaluate their conservation status and take appropriate action to ensure their long term conservation.

‘Ghostly’ Saharan cheetah filmed in Niger (BBC)

The ghostly image of the Saharan cheetah has excited conservationists, as perhaps fewer than 10 of the cats survive in the deserts of Termit, Niger, where the photograph was taken.

Almost nothing is known of the Saharan cheetah, except that it endures extremely high temperatures and appears to survive without a permanent source of water.

Cheetahs in Niger

In Niger, records from the Sahelo-Saharan areas of the country involve the Aïr, Ténéré and Termit natural regions. Cheetah signs have previously been widely detected, though in small numbers, in a surface area totaling 275,000 km², including Aïr mountains, Talak and Azaouak plains, and Ténéré sandy expanses; with about 50 individuals estimated to be present in a 9,700 km²-area of the Ténéré (Dragesco-Joffé, 1993). Recent interviews conducted with representatives from the Ministry of Environment of Niger and the Réserve Naturelle Nationale de l’Aïr et du Ténéré indicated that adults and young cheetahs are regularly seen in this protected area (Drieux & Claro, 2002). In the Aïr massif, cheetahs have been documented to be mainly distributed in its central part (Poilecot, 1996). The Termit massif and its surroundings are definitely the sahelo-saharan area of Niger in which cheetah presence has been evidenced either by direct sightings, photographs or track detection in the last few years (Claro & Sissler, 2003; Wacher et al., 2004). The species may also be present in Gosso-Lolom, north of the massif (Claro & Sissler, 2003); and the population size in Termit has been guessed to total 30-40 individuals (Dragesco, 1983 in Claro & Sissler, 2003). Interviews with local Toubou nomads indicated that cheetah population in this area is dwindling (Claro & Newby, 2005). It is worth making the point that though Krausman & Morales (2005) assigned cheetahs of the Termit region to subspecies A. j. soemmeringii (based on Fig. 3, p. 2), recent photographs taken from a live free-ranging female in the region displayed a very pale coat and tear stripes on the face (Claro & Sissler, 2003), resembling the ‘Saharan cheetahs’ photographed by Dragesco-Joffé (1993) in the Ténéré region. In the southern part of the country, cheetahs are known to occur in the Niger portion of the W Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (also shared by Benin and Burkina Faso). A survey carried out in November 2002-March 2003 in the Parc du W-Niger and Tamou Wildlife Reserve (Réserve de Faune de Tamou) indicated that at least 15-25 cheetahs, including young individuals, roam mainly in the Parc du W (Claro et al., 2006), thus increasing a population size previously estimated to “at least 9 individuals” by Van Syckle (1995). Investigating the same protected areas, Di Silvestre (2004) estimated the presence of at least 16 cheetahs distributed in five groups. No recent information is available on cheetahs in southeastern Niger, close to the border with Nigeria and Chad (this population also being assigned to A. j. soemmeringii by Krausman & Morales (2005).

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