Three new Ramsar sites in the Niger River Basin

17/08/2004

Niger names three important Ramsar sites in the Niger basin

The government of Niger, which has been taking vigorous steps in recent years, with the energetic assistance of WWF International's Living Waters Programme, to designate for the Ramsar List a number of extremely valuable wetland areas along the Niger River and in the Lake Chad Basin, has recently listed three new sites, totaling over three quarters of a million hectares along the Niger and two of its former tributary valleys from the north. Ramsar's Abou Bamba, Senior Advisor for Africa, was able to present Niger's president, Mamadou Tandja, with "site diplomas" for the three new sites at President Jacques Chirac's meeting in Paris on 26-27 April 2004, "Partenariat international pour le Bassin du Niger: vision partagée, de la stratégie vers un plan d'action", and now that the site datasheets have been thoroughly gone over by the Africa team in the Secretariat, the new RSs can be added to the List of Wetlands of International Importance. The three sites are Dallol Bosso (376,162 hectares), Dallol Maouri (318,966 ha), and Zone humide du moyen Niger II (65,850 ha) in the Niger floodplain.

Dallol Bosso. 26/04/04; Dosso; 376,162 ha; 13°57'N 002°98'E. A system of seasonal watercourses and permanent pools in the old north-south valley of a long inactive branch of the river Niger, associated with a long 775km depression running southward from Mali. Sandy soils with a near-surface aquifer contribute to the agricultural importance of the area and to the only viable West African population of the giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis. The site also supports numerous fish species at different stages of their life cycles, and certain species migrate towards the Niger during the winter season, enriching the biodiversity there. Chief human uses of the area include irrigation agriculture, livestock, forestry, fishing, and the extraction of the salt-like natron. The effects of desertification in the region, including uncertain rains, sand encroachment, and inadequate groundwater recharge, give cause for concern, and overgrazing and soil impoverishment through overcultivation are seen as potential threats. The area is adjacent to Parc National du W and part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of that name. Ramsar site no. 1382.

Dallol Maouri. 26/04/04; Gaya; 318,966 ha; 12°04'N 003°30'E. A former north-south tributary of the Niger along the frontier with Nigeria in the southwest, now a complex of permanent saline/alkaline pools and seasonal streams and creeks with an exceptional complex of vegetation including the Palmyra palm Borassus aethiopum and African doum palm Hyphaene thebaïca. Some nine ethnic groups contribute to the human population, and rainy-season agriculture and market gardens, salt extraction, fishing, forestry, and grazing are the principal means of livelihood. A high sustainable tourism potential is seen, and a local research programme, financed by Switzerland, is studying potential development in sustainable livelihoods. As elsewhere in the region, the effects of desertification comprise the most worrying threats to the site. Ramsar site no. 1381.

Zone humide du moyen Niger II. 26/04/04; Dosso; 65,850 ha; 12°21'N 002°54'E. A 25km stretch of the river Niger along the border with Benin in the southwest of the country, with associated floodplains and pools. The area is extremely important for the presence of hippo grass echinochloa stagnina, a quality forage plant, and the grass anthephora nigritana which provides habitat for thousands of waterbirds as well as pasturage. Threatened species include the white-tailed mongoose, the pale fox vulpes pallida, and the African manatee Trichechus senegalensis, and the permanent pools provide refuge for several fish species that have disappeared elsewhere along the river. The hydrological regime is characterized by a period of flooding of 4-5 months, beginning in August with local torrential rains and again in November with floods coming down from upstream. The rich alluvual soils provide agricultural and pastoral livelihoods, but unwise practices, as well as invasions of the cattail typha australis, present potential threats. The land is largely state-owned but the population has long-standing usage rights. Ramsar site no. 1383.

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