Air and Tenere Nature Reserve

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Air and Tenere Nature Reserve

Air and Tenere Natural Reserve is one of the most famous natural parts on the African continent, which is located in the country of Niger. Its total area is estimated to be close to thirty thousand square miles, and the natural reserve includes a number of national parks like Aïr and Tenere Addax Sanctuary, and so on. The area is known for its varied nature and special fauna and flora, with plenty of interesting species of mammals, as well as a huge variety of plants and trees. However, Air and Tenere Natural Reserve in Niger is really famous for its large number of bird species living and migrating in the area. Therefore, there are numerous bird-watching spots and facilities available for the guests of the park.

Things to do Air and Tenere nature reserve

Being the largest protected area in Africa covering a vast swathe of the desert and semi-desert land on the edge of the Sahara. At the time of inscription, it supported a diverse desert fauna and was considered to offer hope for the preservation of viable populations of desert antelopes such as addax, dama and Dorcas gazelles as well ostrich and Barbary sheep. Other key desert species disappeared earlier, notably the scimitar-horned oryx, last seen in 1983. Since then, a period of civil strife in northern Niger, and lack of management capacity, has resulted in a catastrophic decline of all the larger species – ostrich, dama gazelle and addax seem to have disappeared completely, and populations of Dorcas gazelle and Barbary sheep are now much reduced.

 The desert scenery is absolutely magnificent and is attracting a growing number of international visitors to the area. This has the potential to provide a major incentive for conservation and serve as a significant engine for economic development. However, for most visitors, the reserve appears to be little more than a ‘paper park’ at present and needs a significant injection of funds to secure the remaining wildlife, and (ultimately) restore the characteristic fauna. In the long-term, a captive breeding and reintroduction programme is required for the major desert antelopes and other large fauna. There are plenty of people living in the reserve, and they are clearly having a negative impact on the fragile environment through the grazing of domestic stock, cultivation, tree-cutting, hunting, and even taking of animals for the live animal trade. During ten days in the reserve, I saw only six Dorcas gazelles, two of which were in the wild, while four had recently been taken from the wild and were being kept in captivity for later sale. Tourism is growing rapidly, but seems to be largely unregulated and gives the impression that ‘anything goes’. There are some first-rate operators, whilst others seem to have little understanding of what tourists require, and the standards of guiding that are expected: training is clearly needed.

How to get to Air and Tenere nature reserve

Access is usually by vehicle, although there are airstrips suitable for light aircraft. One national standard unmetalled road passes through the Reserve from Agadez through Iférouane to the Algerian border. All tracks within the reserve are surfaced and most follow the major wadis. Nearly all visitors travel in the security of convoys of 4WD vehicles organised by travel agencies based in Agadez and Arlit.

Where to stay in Air and Tenere nature reserve

Camping in the bush is possible but there are two small rest houses in the Reserve, both locally run, at Iférouane. In 1990 a visitor centre with the museum was built at Iférouane as an IUCN/WWF project. A village cooperative has been formed for camel and donkey trekking, to increase the tourist revenue reaching the local population.

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