LegendThe International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines a protected area as: “A clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated, and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values” (Dudley, 2008). IUCN has also developed a system for categorizing protected areas according to their management goals and governance, but many protected areas in West Africa have not been assigned to a category and have an unclear management status. Because the 17 countries of West Africa are physically and politically diverse, the category designation and management goals of protected areas can vary greatly between countries (Mallon and others, 2015). To lessen confusion and to simplify the data for purposes of making this map, West African protected areas were grouped as follows.


Internationally designated sites:

Biosphere Reserve: Sites recognized under the international UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme for their ecosystem and biodiversity conservation importance. World Heritage sites that were not designated as Biosphere Reserve are not included on the map.

Ramsar site (Wetlands of International Importance): Wetlands of high conservation importance for their resources.

Nationally designated sites:

National Park: Area set aside for the protection, conservation, and propagation of natural resources of particular scientific or aesthetic interest. Prohibited activities, unless authorized by permit, include the collection, removal of any forest products, hunting, trapping, damaging natural resources, setting fire, mining, and building infrastructure (IUCN, 1992). In addition to the areas designated as “National Park”, this category also includes “Natural Park” (Guinea-Bissau).

Nature Reserve: Area of importance for wildlife, habitats, or features of geological or other interest which is managed for conservation and to provide special opportunities for study or research. Management and level of protection differ by local laws. In addition to the areas designated as “Nature Reserve”, this category includes the “Natural Reserve”, “Wetland Reserve”, “Strict Nature Reserve”, “Botanical Reserve”, and “Marine Community protected area”.

Wildlife Sanctuary: Area set aside to assure the natural conditions necessary to protect nationally significant species, groups of species, biotic communities, or physical features of the environment where these require specific human manipulation for their perpetuation. Hunting, killing or capture of fauna is prohibited. In addition to the areas designated as “Wildlife Sanctuary”, this category includes the “Game Sanctuary” and “Chimpanzee Sanctuary”.

Faunal Reserve: Area established for the conservation, management and propagation of wild animal life, threatened animal or plant species, and the protection and management of its. Hunting, killing or capture of fauna is regulated. In addition to the areas designated as “Faunal Reserve”, this category includes the “Game Reserve”, “Partial Faunal Reserve”, “Bird Reserve”, and “Wildlife Reserve”.

Forest Reserve: Area where conservation is considered necessary to maintain the ecological equilibrium for the benefit of populations and the conservation of species recognized to be endangered. Forest in which sustainable exploitation of wood is permitted but regulated. Activities prohibited, unless authorized by permit, include farming, grazing of livestock, fires, mining, hunting, and damage to natural resources (IUCN, 1992). In addition to the areas designated as “Forest Reserve”, this category includes the “Classified Forest”, “Community Forest”, and “National Forest”.

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