This is the largest protected area in Africa, covering some 7.7 million ha, though the area considered a protected sanctuary constitutes only one-sixth of the total area. It includes the volcanic rock mass of the Aïr, a small Sahelian pocket, isolated as regards its climate and flora and fauna, and situated in the Saharan desert of Ténéré. The reserves boast an outstanding variety of landscapes, plant species and wild animals.
A dune sea (Erg) between Fachi and Bilma.
© Holger Reineccius
Outstanding Universal Value
The Aïr and Ténéré Natural Reserves is one of the largest protected areas in Africa, covering 7,736,000 hectares. It is the last bastion of Saharo-Sahelian wildlife in Niger. It comprises two main zones : the mountain massifs of Aïr rising up to 2000 m in altitude and the vast plain of the Ténéré desert. In the heart of a desert environment, the Aïr represents a small pocket of Sahelian plant life with Sudanese and Saharo-Mediterranean elements.
Criterion (vii): The Aïr constitutes a Sahelian enclave surrounded by a Saharian desert, thus forming a remarkable assemblage of relict ecosystems combined with mountain and plain landscapes of outstanding esthetic value and interest. The live dunes of the Ténéré rapidly modify the landscape through displacement and deposition of sand. The region contains the blue marble mountains that represent an exceptional aesthetic interest.
Criterion (ix): The Reserve of Aïr and Ténéré is the last bastion of Saharo-Sahlien wildlife in Niger. The isolation of the Aïr and the very minor human presence are the reasons for the survival in this region of numerous wildlife species that have been eliminated from other regions of the Sahara and the Sahel. The property contains a wide variety of habitats (living dunes, fixed dunes, stoney gravel desert, cliff valleys, canyons, high plateaus, water holes, etc.) necessary for the conservation of the Saharo Sahelian biological diversity.
Criterion (x): The property contains important natural habitats for the survival of the three antelopes of the Sahara Desert on IUCN's Red List of threatened species: the Dorcus gazelle (Gazella dorcas dorcas); the Leptocere gazelle (Gazella leptoceros); and the Addax (screwhorn antelope) (Addax nasomaculatus). About a sixth of the Reserve benefits from the statute of sanctuary for the protection of the Addax. The property contains important populations of species of ungulates of the Sahara and species of carnivore such as the fennec fox, Rüppells fox, and the cheetah. The massif of the Aïr also constitutes a transit zone for a large number of afrotropical and palaearctic migratory birds. In total, 40 species of mammals, 165 species of birds, 18 species of reptiles and one amphibian species have been identified in the Reserve. As concerns the flora, the steppe contains species of Acacia ehrenbergiana, Acacia raddiana, Balanites aegyptiaca, Maerua crassifolia, and at lower altitudes species of Panicum turgidum and Stipagrostis vulnerans. In the larger valleys where water in the alluvial reservoirs is plentiful, a very specific habitat has developed associating a dense ligneous stratum of doum palms, date palms, Acacia nilotica, Acacia raddiana, Boscia senegalensis, Salvadora persica, and a herbaceous stratum with among others, Stipagrostis vulnerans.
The property is one of the largest protected areas in Africa covering a surface of 7,736,000 ha. Its central part (1,280,500ha) is listed as a strict reserve (Addax Sanctuary). As the desert species are found in very low densities, this large size is essential for their survival. In the boundaries of the Aïr mountains and the Ténéré desert, the boundaries are marked at all the principal entry points. An extension in the south-west to include a site for wildlife under certain rainfall conditions and to take into account a migration of Addax south-east to the Mt Termit region is under consideration.
Protection and management requirements
The property was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1992 due to political instability and dissention among the populations. The property benefits from legal protection and satisfactory management, with technical and financial support from the State and development partners. It does not have a management plan. Hunting and exploitation of wood products are forbidden in the Reserve; and access to the Addax Sanctuary is also strictly forbidden. Poaching and illegal grazing are the main threats that endanger the property. These threats are finding the beginnings of a solution with surveillance and awareness raising activities but much remains to be done to completely eliminate them. To minimize these problems, the physical presence of the management authorities in the Reserve needs to be strengthened; the respective land-use rights and access to resources by the local populations requires clarification, monitoring and surveillance of the property needs to be improved to combat the problems of poaching and the illegal extraction of natural resources and halt the collection of wood and haulm in the property for commercial purposes. The sustainable development and conservation of this property requires the strengthening of financial and technical support from the State and the development partners, in order to establish a development and management plan for the site, for efficient implementation a framework for inter-communal concertation, and to agree on the co-management of the natural resources of the property by the State and the concerned communities.
Situated in the Saharan region of Niger, approximately 160 km north-east of Agadez, the reserve includes a smaller core area integral reserve called Sanctuaire des Addax.
The reserve lies in an arid region of the Sahara, with average rain fall of around 50 mm per year. It is composed of two main zones: the mountain massifs of the Air rising to 2,000 m in altitude, and the extensive flat plain of the Ténéré desert. Habitats are diverse, ranging from aquatic communities in the permanent rock pools (gueltas ) of the mountains, to heavily-wooded valleys and open sandy desert. The Air Mountains are basically a Sahelian enclave surrounded by a Saharan environment, but Sudanese and Mediterranean elements are also present.
The relict Sudanese and Mediterranean elements are found above 1,000 m in the sheltered wetter localities in the massifs. Sudanese species include Grewia and several species of Ficus . Mediterranean species include the wild olive. The reserve harbours significant populations of the wild relatives of several important crop species: wild olive, millet and sorghum.
40 species of mammal, 165 birds, 18 reptiles and one amphibian from the reserve have been identified. Significant populations of several internationally threatened Saharan desert ungulate species are present: there are an estimated 12,000 Dorcas gazelle, 170 Dama gazelle, 3,500 Barbary sheep (aoudad ), occasional addax and possibly slender-horned gazelle. Carnivores include healthy populations of fennec fox, Ruppell's fox, and a small and probably declining population of 15-20 cheetahs. About 85 of the bird species recorded are Palaearctic migrants; of the remainder the estimated 800-2,000 ostrich represent the last viable population of the West African race, and there are substantial numbers of Nubian bustard. The reptilian fauna includes the desert monitor lizard, the sand viper and various species of sand boa and gecko.
Palaeolithic and Neolithic archaeological sites are found at many locations in the reserve, as are rock engraving sites. The 3,500-7,000 Twareg inhabitants for the most part maintain a lifestyle of transhumant pastoralism, raising goats and camels. The settled population practises irrigated agriculture, growing wheat, fruit, vegetables and dates. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
The reserve was gazetted by Decree No. Infobase produced by WCMC, January 1992 Source: Advisory Body Evaluation