The Aïr and Ténéré nature parks in the southern Sahara together form the largest protected area in Africa. They are shaped by two different landscapes: the Aïr Mountains, a stony desert with rugged cliffs and island-like volcanic heights of up to 2310 m, and the Ténéré desert with sand dunes, isolated wadis and oases. Ruins and rock paintings in the Aïr remind us that the area was inhabited in the Paleolithic under a more humid climate than today. Fossils of fish and crocodiles have been found in numerous places. The world heritage has been on the red list since 1992.
Aïr and Ténéré Natural Parks: Facts
|Official title:||Aïr and Ténéré natural parks|
|Natural monument:||a nature reserve of 77,360 km² in existence since 1988 with a core zone of 12,805 km²; 35-40% of the area is occupied by the Aïr mountain range, the remaining part by the Ténéré desert, predominantly heights of 400 to 800 m, highest elevation in the Tamgak massif 1998 m; the mountain landscape u. consisting of 9 massifs, including Adrar Bous and Taghmert, as well as volcanic formations such as the Arakao caldera; within the nature reserve around 2000 to 2500 Tuareg; 1998 Skeleton discovery of the previously unknown dinosaur species Suchomiomus tenerensis|
|Location:||Sahara, northeast of Agadès|
|Appointment:||1991, since 1992 in the Red List of World Heritage in Danger|
|Meaning:||the largest protected area in Africa and an extraordinary interplay of landscape, flora and fauna of the Sahara-Sahel zone|
|Flora and fauna:||289 plant species identified so far, including felt-leaved jujube and Balanites aegyptiaca, in the desert, among others. the rump thorn family Tribulus longipetalus; above 1000 m of the massif and others Grewia tenax and Cordia sinensis; 40 mammal species, including around 12,000 Dorcas gazelles and around 3,500 great-shouldered jumpers, around 100 Mendes antelopes in the southeast of the Ténéré; around 70 green baboons and 500 hussar monkeys, as well as Dama gazelle, golden jackal and fennec|
A big, empty room
“Ténéré” in the Tuareg language simply means “the land out there”. Only to people who have not lived in it does it appear as a large, empty space. Certainly, far away from the oases and the mountainous country in which the legendary people live with the men veiled in indigo blue, there is nothing but sand that piles up grain by grain and is carried away by the wind to create a new dune in another place to pile up: »The dune moved with the hours and gradually adorned itself with the most varied of colors. From this intertwining of sand and wind, life took on another dimension, ”philosophizes the Tuareg Mano Dayak in his notes“ Born with sand in his eyes ”.
The undulating dunes even arouse – as in the novel “Tuareg” by the Spanish novelist Alberto Vázquez-Figueroa – erotic fantasies: At the sight of the blown sand it seems as if the landscape of the void is “covered by countless naked female bodies, those with golden-yellow skin store in the sun. Some also had copper-colored or even reddish curves … ”
With its over 200 meter high dunes, the Ténéré desert on the southern edge of the Sahara is considered the most beautiful in the world. This beauty almost makes you forget that in this hostile landscape only those creatures survive that, like the Mendes’ gazelles, have adapted to the drought of the Ténéré. In comparison, the Aïr mountainous region to the west, with its green valleys, is almost a paradise. Here the women of the Tuareg from the Kel Aïr tribe grow dates and pumpkins in irrigated gardens. In the surrounding area they tend their small herds of goats while their men travel with the caravans through the desert. However, the area has been on the Red List of World Heritage in Danger since the Tuareg uprisings in the 1990s; Too little is being done by the government to combat poaching and to preserve the protected area.
In character, the Aïr is a low mountain range from which individual high mountain massifs emerge, which have been formed by weathering that has lasted for thousands of years. Some massifs stand out clearly from their surroundings, such as the Montagnes Bleues, which are bluish colored by cobalt. Probably the most striking elevation of the Aïr is the Mont Greboun in the north, whose 1940 meter high summit was first climbed in 1943. Acacias and tamarisks thrive in the valleys of the mountains, and in isolated cases even ancient, wild olive trees have defied the dry climate. This mountainous world is home to subspecies of green baboons and hussar monkeys, which are better adapted to life in the semi-desert than their relatives in Ethiopia and southern Arabia. The Tuareg still compare their most beautiful women to slender gazelles, of which the Damagazelle, which live in small groups, and the Dorcas Gazelle, which prefer hard-bottomed deserts, can be found in the nature park. Just like the West African ostriches, the gazelles have also been severely decimated in recent years. The greatest danger for them still comes from humans, as there are almost no predators such as cheetahs in this part of the Sahara.
At the same time as the nature reserve, the “Sanctuaire des Addax” – the “sanctuary of the Mendes antelopes” – was established as a core area, which is closed to any form of tourism. It primarily serves to protect the desert animal, about the size of a red deer, which belongs to the gauntlet and has horns up to a meter long, twisted like a corkscrew. With its hooves wider, it can move very well on sand, and thanks to a honeycomb reservoir of fluid in the stomach wall, it is said that it is able to survive almost as long as camels without hydration. Except in the protected area, this antelope species is now only found in remote parts of Chad and Sudan.