You're hiring a guide to show you the animals and birds of W, Arly, and Pendjari. He knows them well. However, if you learn to recognize the common species in advance,
- you will make the guide's day!
- you will waste less time with your nose in a guidebook
- you can ask intelligent questions like "what different ecological niches do these two antelope occupy?" instead of "what sort of antelope is that?"
- if you are already an experienced birder, you can teach your guide a lot about birds. Big-game hunting has been popular for years, but eco-tourism is a more recent development, and birding is only just getting established. The guides grew up knowing how to recognize genera, but not necessarily individual species. How long did it take for you to learn the different wood-warblers or the different species of tit?
ECOPAS, the European consortium which manages W, has compiled excellent books on the mammals and the birds of the WAP complex; you will find these listed in Resources. However, they are hard to buy in the U.S.; you have to order them from Europe or buy them in person in Niamey or Ouaga. Their text is in French, but the birds and mammals are also identified in English, so when your guide points to the "hippotrague" you can see that it is a "roan antelope".
Birds of Western Africa (Nik Borrow, Ron Demey. Princeton University Press, 2004) is the standard book. Even the French-speaking guides bought it before the French edition was published. A French index is available so when your guide calls out "guépier" you can look under "g" and find the Rosy-throated Bee-eater.
Birdlife International has Pendjari and W as mportant Bird Areas.
The African Birding Club has downloadable checklists of the birds of Benin, Niger, and Burkina Faso.
Among the most common species you will find:
and of course the large and unmistakeable...
African grey hornbill
on the shores of ponds...
on the road...
well-hidden in the foliage...
African blue flycatcher
or just as well-hidden in the savannah!
There are are not as many individual animals in the WAP as in some parks in East Africa but there is great diversity. It is not hard to spot elephants, warthogs, cape buffalo, red and green monkeys, baboons, antelopes of various species, hippos, and crocodiles. Lions are harder, but always possible. The West African sub-species are sometimes distinctive. For instance, West African male lions do not always have manes. Outside the park proper, in a protected zone near Niamey at Kouré, you can add giraffes (the West African "peralta" subspecies) to your list.
Pendjari's website has a listing in English of the common mammals, with pictures. The French side of the site is more extensive and includes the commonest birds and plants.
Among the common species you should spot :
monkeys and baboons...
Baboons on the shore of a pond
Western Buffon's kob
alone -- or the whole family.
Mammals claim the right of way.
Mother warthog and her children
Some mammals let themselves be seen easily ...
for others you really need a telescope or binoculars.
A family of hippos in Pendjari
If you don't find the lion you were looking for this time..
The Pendjari visitor center has interpretive displays...
you'll just have to come back!
if you're not lucky enough to meet a lion in person!