A Spotlight on Burkina Faso’s W National Park, Part of the Wap Complex in West Africa

2 August 2015

A recent training workshop organized through BIOPAMA to support the work of the Observatory for Protected Areas and Biodiversity, provided the opportunity for the analysis of protected area data from the WAP Complex, including W National Park, using the recently developed pilot Protected Area Management Effectiveness (PAME) form. The BIOPAMA PAME form will inform protected area managers, guide the identification of key threats that require management attention, and make provision for developing management objectives, and ultimately aims to improve the overall management effectiveness of protected areas.

A team of five coaches worked together on collecting data from the W National Park- Burkina Faso using the BIOPAMA PAME form. The Conservator of W National Park-Burkina Faso assisted them in providing answers to elements of the Form, particularly on context of intervention and analyses of management effectiveness. Their findings refer to the governance of the park, status of wildlife populations and flora within the park, challenges linked to the human populations and the management effectiveness, among others.

27 coaches from 12 countries have qualified to serve as coaches of the BIOPAMA observatory of West and Central Africa after completing training on COMIT (Coach Observatory Mission Information Toolkit COMIT) that took place from the 30 June to 11 July 2015 in Tapoa, Niger. The coaches were trained on the BIOPAMA tool on Protected Areas Management Effectiveness and on best practice in their coaching missions for the observatory. They were successful in administering the tool in real-time using the five protected areas of the WAP complex as case study.

The W National Park of Burkina Faso (IUCN Category II) was created in 1954 by a government decree (Arrêté 6009SET du 04/08/1954), and  was designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2002, as well as a RAMSAR site in 1990. It is also listed as an Important Bird Area (IBA). The park is part of the WAP transboundary protected areas complex that includes Park W – Burkina, Park W – Benin, Parc W – Niger, Pendjari NP of Benin, and Arly NP of Burkina Faso (see map).

W-Burkina is located in the province of Tapoa and covers 2350 km2 with a buffer zone of 760 km2. Found along the West Sudan Savanna belt, W-Burkina has a tropical and sub-tropical shrubby savanna and herbaceous vegetation. To ensure effective surveillance and control, the park has been divided into four sectors: Kabougou (729.52 km2), Tapoa Djerma (449.52 km2), Kondio (691.14 km2) and Point Triple (491.65 km2).

The park is managed on-site by a conservator, Mr. Youssouf Sanou, and 69 personnel responsible for various duties including: ecological monitoring, forestry and law enforcement.

The local population of about 22,000 constitutes a challenge for the management of the park’s resources. Neighboring local communities collect Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) such as fruits from Baobab (Adansonia digitata) and straw. Park management has put in place a scheme that authorizes and controls collection of NTFPs. However, this consideration for local livelihoods (coupled with illegal collections) has created a conservation dilemma given that there is competition with wildlife for food availability. Collection of NTFPs is currently done in all areas of the park but the conservator would like to limit authorized collection to 10km inwards from the park’s boundary, and also reduce his estimated 30% of illegal collection of NTFPs to 15 %, all by 2020.

Cotton is one of the principal sources of revenue for a large part of the population of Burkina Faso. Around Park W, it is cultivated using chemicals that are perceived to be a pollution threat to the park.  The conservator believes cotton cultivation activities should be prevented within 5km from the park boundary by 2030. Meanwhile, human-wildlife conflict, pressure from cattle grazing, as well as uncontrolled fires, are other current challenges that the park faces. The conservator intends to reduce human-wildlife conflict by 95% in the next 10 years and totally eradicate cattle presence in the park by 2030.

The current hunting levels threaten wildlife populations. Lion (Panthera leo), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), elephant (Loxodonta africana), African buffalo (Syncerus caffer), roan antelope (Hippotragus equinus), topi (Damaliscus lunatus ssp. Korrigum), red-flanked duiker (Cephalophus rufilatus), red-fronted gazelle (Eudorcas rufifrons) and Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos) were reported to be under pressure from hunting. Based on their current populations, threat levels, and the level of park surveillance operations, the conservator predicted that in ten years, lion individuals should increase from 55 to 80; elephant – 1400 to 1500; African buffalo – 10000 to 10500; and roan antelope – 3500 to 6000. He is convinced that the current rate of killing of elephants (15 individuals killed per year on average) can be reduced by 90% by 2025.

Some existing plant species in the park include Andropogon spp., Adansonia spp., Adansonia digitata L., Pterocarpus erinaceus, Afzelia africana, Anogeissus leiocarpus, Prosopis africana, and Terminalia spp. The form data revealed that threats on plant species are low. It is however important to highlight that aspects of climate change are not currently an active part of park management.

Some specific needs for improving park management were highlighted by the conservator, and include: using bicycles, motorbikes, and lookout towers to reinforce park surveillance and control operations. It is clear that the commitment and dedication to improve the conservation status of this park exist, although the last management plan expired in 2010 and is still under review.

Only with the adequate and consistent provision of financial, material and technical support along with a strong political will by the government to support its objectives, the park’s management objectives can be met.

The conservator of W National Park applauded the recently developed BIOPAMA PAME form as a useful tool that would help guide the more effective management of his park.

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