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Decision 41 COM 8B.3
W-Arly-Pendjari Complex (Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/17/41.COM/8B and WHC/17/41.COM/INF.8B2,
  2. Approves the extension of the W National Park of Niger, Niger, to become the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex, Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (ix) and (x);
  3. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    The W-Arly-Pendjari Complex is a transnational property shared between the Republic of Niger, Burkina Faso and the Republic of Benin in West Africa. Located in the transition zone between the savannas of the Sudanese region and the forested Guinean region, the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex lies at the heart of the most extensive protected area block in the West African Woodlands/Savanna Biogeographical Province and includes the largest and most important continuum of terrestrial, semi-aquatic and aquatic ecosystems in the West African savanna belt. The property encompasses 1,714,831 ha and is a contiguous mosaic of nine protected areas. It includes the trinational complex of W Regional Park (shared between Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger), Arly National Park (Burkina Faso), Pendjari National Park (Benin) and the hunting zones of Koakrana and Kourtiagou (Burkina Faso) and Konkombri and Mékrou (Benin).

    Criterion (ix): Stretching across three countries, W-Arly-Pendjari Complex is the largest and most important continuum of terrestrial, semi-aquatic and aquatic ecosystems in the West African savanna belt. Situated within the Volta River basin it comprises a dynamic system, where the ebb and flow of water with alternating wet and dry seasons creates a rich variety of plant communities and associated fauna. The Complex is a major expanse of intact Sudano-Sahelian savanna, with numerous and diverse types of vegetation such as grassland, shrub, wooded savannah, open forests and extensive gallery and riparian forests as well as the rare semi-deciduous forest of Bondjagou within Pendjari National Park. The long-term effects of fire linked to human occupation, perhaps dating back some 50,000 years, have shaped the vegetation of the property, and the continued traditional use of fire maintains the diversity of vegetation types, which in turn provide habitat for the property’s characteristic wildlife.

    Criterion (x): The property and the broader landscape are a refuge for species of fauna that have disappeared or are highly threatened in most of the rest of West Africa. The W-Arly-Pendjari Complex is particularly crucial to the conservation of the last healthy populations of mammals belonging to the Sahelian and Sudanian domains. The Complex includes the largest and most ecologically secure elephant population in West Africa, representing 85% of the region's savanna elephants. It also protects almost the complete assemblage of characteristic flora and fauna, providing crucial habitat for most of the large mammal species typical of West Africa, such as African Manatee, Cheetah, Lion, Leopard, African Wild Dog and Topi Antelope. It harbours the only viable population of lion in the area and probably the only population of cheetah in West Africa. The site exhibits particularly high levels of endemism among fish species and is home to seven of the nine endemic fish species reported in the Volta Basin.


    The W-Arly-Pendjari Complex is of sufficient size to permit unimpeded ecological function and the overall integrity of the system is good amongst protected areas in West Africa, many of which have suffered significant degradation from anthropogenic pressures. Covering a comparatively large area of 1,714,831 ha, the trinational property contains a representative suite of Sudano-Sahelian ecosystems that are in good condition. It includes a large variety of habitats indispensable for the survival of characteristic species and is large enough to support the healthy populations of large mammal species such as elephant and lion which range over wide territories.

    The W National Park and the Arly-Pendjari Regional Park complexes are connected through the four hunting reserves, allowing for connectivity across the property and free movements of animals in the complex. Hunting within the hunting reserves has, to date, been sustainably managed and these reserves include natural systems and habitat that are regarded as being of a similar quality to that within the national parks, thereby enhancing resilience. The hunting reserves would be considered equivalent to IUCN Category VI and the activity, at the time of inscription, does not appear to be negatively impacting on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value as a whole.

    The buffer zone of W-Arly-Pendjari Complex consists of areas of different protection status (hunting reserves, wildlife reserves, and special legally designated buffer zones) all established by national laws and covers a total area of 1,101,221 ha. The buffer zones are designed to strengthen integrity and are managed as to mitigate impacts from surrounding human activities.

    Protection and management requirements

    The property benefits from long-term legal protection through national laws and receives financial and technical support from the States and some development partners. Five of the protected areas making up the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex are protected as national parks (managed as IUCN Category II). The four hunting reserves within Benin and Burkina Faso are also managed under the same regime as national parks, noting that sustainable hunting is permitted. The hunting in these reserves is regulated through annual quotas, closely monitored and aimed at generating benefits for local communities and conservation of nature.

    Although the boundaries of the property are clearly defined, known by the surrounding population and regulated, there are threats such as poaching, illegal grazing and encroachment of agricultural land which persist. Adequate measures must be undertaken to address these threats including working closely with agricultural development sectors to regulate, incentivize and raise awareness among communities surrounding the property. Monitoring of the scale of transhumance activities, which are a long-standing use, is important to ensure so that it remains sustainable in relation to the property’s Outstanding Universal Value.

    The property is managed in Benin by the Centre National de Gestion des Réserves de Faune (CENAGREF); in Burkina Faso, Arly National Park is managed by the Office National des Aires Protégées (OFINAP) and W National Park, Burkina Faso is managed by the Direction Générale des Eaux et Forêts (DGEF). The W National Park, Niger is managed by the Direction Générale des Eaux et Forêts (DGEF) / Ministère de l'Environnement et du Développement Durable (MEDD). The multi-agency responsibilities across the three States Parties require considerable and sustained effort to ensure effective coordination and harmonization of protected area policies and practice. All national parks in the Complex have a 10-year management plan all following a joint “Schéma Directeur d’Aménagement du complexe” to foster coordination. A workable system of transboundary governance is in place under a tripartite management agreement (now quadripartite with the integration of the State Party of Togo). However, ongoing efforts are needed to improve the levels of transnational cooperation for the property.

    Ongoing attention is needed to ensure that the traditional application of fire continues to support fire regimes which maintain Outstanding Universal Value, particularly under the influence of climate change. Similarly the three States Parties should work cooperatively with UEMOA (Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine) to plan, monitor and act such that transhumance movements taking place in the property and its buffer zones do not adversely impact on the Outstanding Universal Value.

    There is also a need to sustain long-term adequate funding for the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex. The States Parties should ensure that adequate government funding is provided to manage the Complex and the necessary coordination. The West African Savannah Foundation (FSOA) created in 2012 is an endowment fund which requires further investment to ensure sustainability. It is critical that the FSOA becomes a source of funding for the entire Complex and continues to be supported and grow. Furthermore, it is important that all protected areas within the Complex are eligible to access this endowment fund.

  4. Recommends that the States Parties within their adopted joint management framework:
    1. Continue to strengthen and coordinate measures to control the threat of wildlife poaching and other illegal activities including through the provision of adequate equipment and training of rangers and patrols,
    2. Monitor the impacts of climate change on the ecosystems of the property, in particular to understand and anticipate any changes to the ecological outcomes resulting from the traditional application of fire and to ensure that the use of fire is based on robust ecologically-based conservation objectives,
    3. Improve institutional coordination between the agencies in charge of the management of the property and the administrations responsible for agricultural development, in order to avoid potential negative impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property,
    4. Develop a long-term strategy for the sustainable financing of the property including strengthening the viability of the Fondation des savanes ouest-africaines (FSOA) and ensuring that all the protected areas within the property are eligible to access the funding of the FSOA,
    5. Work closely with UEMOA (Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine) to plan, monitor and implement activities as described in the property’s management plan concerning transhumance taking place within the property and its buffer zones, in order to support these activities at sustainable levels and to ensure that they are not negatively impacting the property’s Outstanding Universal Value;
  5. Requests the States Parties of Benin and Burkina Faso to submit a new map of the buffer zone boundaries at 1:50,000 scale to the World Heritage Centre by 1 December 2019;
  6. Also recommends the State Party of Niger to consider designating the buffer zones which exist for the W National Park, Niger as formal World Heritage buffer zones through the submission of a Minor Boundary Modification in order to provide a consistent approach to buffer zones across the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex as a whole;
  7. Commends the efforts of the States Parties, working with partners, for the high quality of conservation management that has been achieved in the protected areas of the Complex, and encourages these efforts to continue to improve the conservation of the property.
Decision Code
41 COM 8B.3
Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties 3
Decisions adopted during the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee (Krakow, 2017)
Context of Decision