Since 1993 the national policy on natural resource management in Niger has been the responsibility of the Cellule de Gestion des Resources Naturelles (Natural Resource Management Unit), which comes under the Sous-Comité Interministériel chargé de la politique de Dévelopement Rural au Niger (Inter-ministerial Sub-committee for Rural Development). Protected areas are administered by the Direction de la Faune, de la Pêche et de la Pisciculture (DFPP) of the Ministère de l'Hydraulique et de l'Environnement (MHE). The implementation of management plans for protected areas is the responsibility of the DFPP's Service d'Aménagement de la Faune et de l'Apiculture (SAFA). However, its means are limited; although there has since been a limited increase in numbers, in 1987 only 40 people were responsible for guarding and managing wildlife throughout the country. In addition, the remit of the Ministère de l'Agriculture et de l'Elevage means it, too, is much involved with land use issues and thus, various aspects of biodiversity conservation.
The following categories of protected area are currently recognised in Niger:
Parc National There is one national park, the Parc National du 'W', 220,000 ha (IBA NE001);
Reserve Naturelle Nationale There is one national natural reserve, the RNN Aïr-Ténéré, 7,736,000 ha, (IBA NE011), which includes the RI Sanctuaire des Addax;
Reserve Intégrale There is one strict reserve, the Sanctuaire des Addax, 1,280,500 ha, which lies within the RNN Aïr-Ténéré;
Reserve Total de Faune There are two total faunal reserves, RTF Tamou, 77,740 ha (buffer zone for PN du 'W') and Gadabeji, 76,000 ha (part RTF, part Forêt Classée);
Reserve Partiel de Faune There is one partial faunal reserve, PFR Dosso, 306,000 ha (buffer zone for PN du 'W').
At present, therefore, the protected area system in Niger comprises a national park and five reserves (one entirely enclosed within a second), which cover about 7% of the country. A proposal is being considered by government to set up an authority to raise funds and manage as a single unit 'W' National Park in Niger and the contiguous national parks of the same name in Burkina Faso and Benin.
In addition, between 1937 and 1956-79 Forêts Classées (forest reserves) totalling 212,000 ha, and 51 restoration and land protection areas (total 69,000 ha) were created, which have had varying degrees of success. These 130 areas fall under the Direction de l'Environnment of the MHE.
Wild natural resources are not owned by anyone and as wildlife is often perceived not to be useful, little reason is seen for conserving fauna or its habitat. On the other hand, there is recognition by older people of the value of conserving certain species of birds and mammals for the benefit of their descendants. A few sacred forests still exist, mostly in the Gourmantché region in the extreme south-west. Plants and animals are also appreciated as sources of traditional medicine and as environmental indicators. For instance, in large parts of Niger the arrival of migrant Abdim Storks Ciconia abdimii signals that the rains are about to arrive and that the fields should be prepared for the new cropping season.
Environmental legislation in Niger is based primarily on French colonial laws and where these are lacking, on traditional and Islamic law. Laws exist for the protection and use of water, soils, forests and trees on arable land, flora and fauna, but implementation and enforcement remain a problem. Hunting was largely banned in 1974 but has, since 1996, been legalised again on a much wider scale and as such, represents a significant threat to fauna throughout the country. Illegal hunting is a serious problem. Conflicts between farmers and pastoralists over scarce resources, such as grazing land and access to wetlands are ever more common. Traditional management structures are no longer adequate because of social, cultural, demographic and environmental changes. The Code Rural is meant to define rural property ownership issues as well as to regulate rural land use and use of resources such as forests, fish and wildlife. This piece of legislation is extremely important for the sustainable management of all natural resources.
Niger has ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Convention on Migratory Species, CITES, the Convention to Combat Desertification, the Convention on Climate Change, the World Heritage Convention, under which two sites, W National Park and the Aïr and Teneré Natural Reserves have been designated, and the Ramsar Convention under which four sites have been designated. Niger has also signed the African - Eurasian Waterfowl Agreement. Regionally, Niger has signed the African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. In addition, Niger is party to the Convention on Game Hunting and the Convention on Plant Protection.
12th March 2012: Niger creates the largest protected area in Africa
More than a decade’s efforts were crowned today when Niger’s Council of Ministers decreed the formal establishment of the Termit & Tin Toumma National Nature and Cultural Reserve. At 100,000 km2 (38,610 sq. ml) the reserve is one of the biggest in Africa. Created to conserve some of the world’s rarest desert species, like the addax, dama gazelle, cheetah and Barbary sheep, it also contains a large variety of desert habitats, ranging from mountains and valleys to grassy plains, open desert and sand seas. The inclusion in its title of both “natural” and “cultural” underlines the fundamental interrelatedness of both ecological and social aspects in the reserve’s management. Bird-wise, the core area of the reserve, the Termit range is an excellent place to see Sahara and Sahel biome species, as well as migrants from the Palearctic. A six-day stay at Termit in September 2011 turned up 78 species, of which more than 40 migrants from Europe and Asia.
Création de la plus grande aire protégée d'Afrique au Niger
Plus d'une dizaine d'années d'effort a été couronné aujourd'hui par la signature du décret lors du conseil des Ministres au Niger faisant acte de la création de la Réserve Naturelle et Culturelle Nationale de Termit et de Tin Toumma. Avec environ 100 000 km2, il s'agit d'une des réserves les plus grandes d'Afrique. Créée pour conserver certaines des espèces désertiques les plus rares de la Planète, telles que l'addax, la gazelle dama, le guépard saharien et le mouflon à manchettes, la réserve possède également une large variété d'habitats désertiques, allant des montagnes au prairies herbeuses en passant par les mers de sable et autres cordons dunaires. Les références dans son appellation de "naturelle" et "culturelle" souligne l'interrelation fondamentale qu'il existe entre les aspects écologiques et anthropiques pour la gestion de la réserve. Concernant l'avifaune, le massif de Termit, situé au cœur de la nouvelle Réserve, constitue un excellent site d'observation pour les espèces caractéristiques du Sahara et du Sahel ainsi que pour les oiseaux migrateurs du Paléarctique. Pendant un séjour de six jours dans le massif de Termit en septembre 2011, 78 espèces d'oiseaux dont plus de 40 migratrices de l'Europe et de l'Asie ont pu être observées.