Niger River Delta

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Local fishermen on barge at sunset, Inner Niger River Delta, Mali.
© WWF-Canon / Anton VORAUER

About the Area

The Niger River Delta, formed when the Niger flows into the Gulf of Guinea, is one of the largest deltas in the world. The Niger Delta extends over about 70,000 sq km and makes up 7.5% of Nigeria’s land mass.

The Niger's relatively nutrient-rich, silt-laden whitewaters converge with the black and clear waters carried by other tributaries, creating an ecosystem that supports nearly 200 fish species. The delta lies at the crossroads of 2 distinct types of habitat for African fish.
Size:
53,000 sq. km (20,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:

Large River Deltas

Geographic Location:

Western Africa, crossing through southern Nigeria

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered
Local Species
Among the many fish in the delta are the only members of the denticle herring (Denticipidae) and hingemouth (Phractolaemidae) fish families. These 2 families each have only 1 species and can be found only in Africa.

One of these fish, Phractolaemus ansorgii, has a swim bladder that functions as a lung and permits it to survive in unoxygenated waters by breathing air at the surface.

The delta also provides habitat for the hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), the vulnerable pygmy hippo (Choeropsis liberiensis), and West African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis).

Featured species

Pygmy Hippo (Choeropsis liberiensis)

Pygmy hippos stand about 75cm (30 in) high at the shoulder and weigh 180kg (400lb). At one-fifth of the weight, they are more solitary than their larger relatives and considerably less aquatic. Pygmy hippos have relatively small, less angular heads and narrower feet with fewer webbed toes, all adaptations for spending more time on land. The skin is greenish-black, shading to a creamy gray on the lower body. The average lifespan is 35 years. The gestation period ranges from 190-210 days, and usually a single young is born.

Pygmy hippos live either alone or in small groups, typically a mated pair and one calf. Both sexes have home ranges and there are numerous resting places throughout their territories, which they use exclusively when sleeping. They are found in moist to wet terrain. They forage at night, following well-worn trails, and spend the day hidden in swamps. Diet consists of shrubs, ferns and fruit.

The pygmy hippo is listed as endangered by IUCN.

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Threats
The delta system is threatened by population growth, coastal urbanisation, oil and gas exploration, industrialisation, domestic and industrial waste discharges, the menace of introduced water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), coastal erosion, and problems associated with aquaculture.
WWF’s work
Reflecting the cooperation agreement signed between WWF and the Niger Basin Authority (NBA), WWF’s Niger Basin Inititiative aims to achieve long-term conservation of the natural patrimony of the Niger River Basin and to promote development that is socially equitable, economically viable and ecologically sustainable.

The purpose of the 2-year project is to reinforce the capacity of environmental organizations and secure their contribution to intergovernmental decision-making affecting sustainable development of the Niger River Basin.

WWF supports the recent designation by the government of Mali of the Inner Niger Delta as a Ramsar site. This represents a major commitment to prevent overexploitation of freshwater resources in the area and promote sustainable management of these wetlands.

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