Niger names three big new Ramsar sites

Niger names three big new Ramsar sites

13 June 2001
Niger

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At ceremonies to be held on 17 June in Albarkaïzé, near the city of Gaya in the département of Dosso (SE of the capital Niamey), the Government of Niger will announce the designation of three valuable new Ramsar sites, totalling nearly half a million hectares (almost 5000 km2). Niger’s energetic efforts, along with the other nations of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, to conserve and sustainably manage the essential but threatened wetland resources of the region, are commendable and have been significantly aided by WWF’s Living Waters Campaign, and WWF’s Denis Landenbergue will be attending the festivities on the 17th.

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"Zone humide du moyen Niger", with birds, March 2001 (Photo: Anada Tiéga, Ramsar)

Complexe Kokorou-Namga. 17/06/01. Tillabéri. 66,829 ha. 14º12’N 000º55’E. Part of a transfrontier wetland, shared with Burkina Faso and Mali, the site comprises a suite of four permanent and semi-permanent marshes and pools in a former tributary of the river Niger. Internationally important for a number of reasons, it is particularly valued for its support to waterbirds, with nearly 50,000 representatives of 56 species counted in 2000. Three ethnic groups inhabit the region, largely Muslim but with a richness which includes veneration of a serpent considered to be a protective spirit for Kokorou and the people living there. Deforestation and over-grazing, as well as desertification, are considered to be threats. The site has been included as a demonstration project under the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) funded by GEF. Ramsar site no. 1071.

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Site designation discussions in full cry, Alberkaïzé: Denis Landenbergue center left, Anada Tiéga center right.

Lac Tchad. 17/06/01. Diffa. 340,423 ha. 14º15’N 013º20’E. Lake Chad, much reduced in area in recent years, is still the fourth largest lake in Africa (after Victoria, Tanganyika, and Nyassa) and apparently the third largest endorrheic lake in the world (after the Aral and Caspian seas). The Niger portion of the shallow lake is extremely rich in biodiversity, particularly in migratory birds but also in its 120 species of fish. In an arid and semi-arid environment of very little rainfall, the supply of water depends upon the rainfall fluctuations in the wider catchment, which have generally not been favorable in recent years. Serious drops in fish production in recent decades remain ominous despite very recent encouraging signs. Traditional nomadic livestock practices present a threat in terms of desertification and require improved management. Ramsar site no. 1072.

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Participatory management in site planning (with everybody turned the wrong way round).

Zone humide du moyen Niger. 17/06/01. Dosso. 88,050 ha. 12º04’N 003º13’E. A transfrontier wetland (shared with Benin and Nigeria) along the left bank of the river Niger some 55km west of the city of Gaya, SE of the capital Niamey, the site comprises the river and its floodplains with their permanent and seasonal ponds and watercourses. The site is internationally important by the representative criterion as well as by four of the waterbird and fish criteria, in particular for providing refuge for several fish species that have disappeared elsewhere along the river. Inundation occurs over a 4-5 month period beginning with rains in August through to the arrival of floods from upstream in November, and the site thus plays a key role in the hydrological cycle of the region. Vegetation is dominated by Echinochloa stagnina which provides pasturage for livestock of local communities, in addition to their traditional pursuits of diversified agriculture and fishing. Tourism is beginning in the area, and the local population has instituted no-hunting mechanisms to encourage birdwatching. Though the land is state-owned, the local population has age-old rights of use. A regional management plan for parks and reserves in the area is under development among Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Ramsar site no. 1073.

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