I doubt that the largest park on any other continent has no entry in the English language Wikipedia. Even the French version makes only a passing reference. Amazingly, the second largest park is equally anonymous! Both are in Algeria.
The best aggregated information seems to be on the MAPA Project website but, while I’m glad we have something useful, you would expect that the two largest parks in Africa would have some dedicated champions online.
Even getting accurate sizes is tricky. Tassili n’Anjjer National Park, which is centred around the mountain range of the same name, is somewhere between 10,000,000 and 7,000,000 hectares in extent. You could fit the whole of the Kruger National Park into the difference with room to spare. The smaller Ahaggar National Park, which includes the Hoggar mountain range and the important town of Tamanrasset, is still a massive 4,500,000 hectares, over twice the size of the Wales, Swaziland, or Israel. Seriously big spaces.
Sleeping gazelle engraving in Tassili nAjjer National Park Credit: Linus Wolf
Unlike the Kruger, these parks no longer teem with large mammals. But just 4,000 years ago, when the Sahara was still green and lush, they would have. A fabulous wealth of rock art (more than 15,000 drawings and engravings in Tassili alone) illustrates a wide range of animal and human activity.
Some of the rock art goes back 6,000 years! The peoples who created them moved away over millennia, following the shifting monsoon rains out of central North Africa. Climate change is not new (though we have managed to speed it up….). Ahaggar remains important territory for the nomadic Tuareg people, one of the very few groups who ‘stayed behind’ and learnt to live amongst the desolate mountains and sandy plains of the Sahara.
Yet animals do survive. Cheetahs still exist in Ahaggar – the Tuareg resent them for their stock predation – albeit in small numbers. As do a number of very water-independent species of gazelle and other mammals. In 2005, a survey was undertaken in Ahaggar which positively identified 15 species.
To give you an idea of how rare the northwest African cheetah is, the strongest population is thought to be in Ahaggar – and that is based on observations of just four individuals. This camera trap photo, published online in an article by BBC Earth News was actually taken in neighbouring Niger but is too interesting not to use….
Credit: Saharan Conservation Fund
There is so much more to know about these parks – recognised for their cultural significance as much as their biodiversity – but it can’t all be squeezed into a blog post. There is more info on the interactive map below
Click on the icons to see the two parks we are looking at. Use the Read More buttons to see further detail - if you can correct or improve the data please let us know!
You can make your own custom map of the African conservation areas that interest you www.mapaproject.org. Use the searchable map to narrow down your results and then click the Share button to see how you can share your map with others. If you embed your map in a blog or website (like I’ve done here) it will be automatically updated if users add more relevant features to the database in the future. Easy and free!