Officially the Republic of the Niger, Niger is a landlocked country in West Africa that gets its name from the River Niger, which flows through the west.
Spanning a total land area of 1,270,000 km2 (490,000 sq mi), Niger is the largest landlocked country in West Africa.
Over 80% of this area lies in the Sahara Desert and crosses shared borders with at least seven other countries.
Despite having most of its land area in the Sahara Desert, Niger is a relatively biodiverse nation, home to over 1,400 species, 130 mammal species, and over 150 reptiles and amphibians.
The country’s north is covered with deserts and semi-deserts, while the south is home to savannas.
These regions are home to many animals, each preferring a specific habitat.
However, despite the number of species, some animals that call Niger home face several endangerment threats.
This article will cover some of the endangered species of Niger.
Also, because some of these animals are endangered or critically endangered in Niger does not mean they face the same fate in other regions or countries.
Keep reading to discover some of Niger’s endangered species.
Also called the screwhorn or white antelope, the addax (Addax nasomaculatus) is an antelope species in the Sahara Desert.
Because of its shared land with the Sahara Desert, Niger is home to a population of these unique antelopes.
The addax is critically endangered and inhabits desert regions in Niger.
The primary cause of the decline is habitat loss due to overgrazing and the expansion of human settlements.
As mentioned, these antelopes are unlike other species and are easily recognizable by their distinct skin and horns.
An addax’s skin color depends on the season; it is gray and brown in winter and sandy blonde and white in the summer.
Females have horns that grow between 1.8 and 2.5 feet, but males have longer horns, between 2.3 and 2.8 feet.
Males also weigh more, between 220 and 276 pounds, while females weigh between 130 and 200 pounds.
The Addax has developed physical adaptations, such as its ability to store water and regulate its body temperature, that allow it to survive in the desert.
Despite its remarkable adaptions, the Addax population in Niger has declined rapidly over the last few decades.
As mentioned, the primary reason for this animal’s endangerment is the expansion of human settlements.
Addaxes also face poaching threats, as their meat and horns have high value in local markets.
4. Dama Gazelle
Known as the addra or mhorr gazelle, or scientifically as Nanger dama, the dama gazelle is a critically endangered species native to the Sahel region of Africa.
This elegant and graceful creature has adapted to life in arid areas, but its population has declined significantly over the years due to habitat loss and hunting.
Niger is one country where the dama gazelle faces endangerment.
The country is home to one of the largest dama gazelle populations.
Dama gazelles have a reddish-brown head and neck and are white throughout.
Both sexes often have S-shaped, medium-length, ringed horns.
Males have horns roughly 14 inches long, whereas females have substantially shorter horns.
Generally, these animals weigh between 77 and 165 pounds and have a lifespan of up to 12 years.
Dama gazelles are herbivores, feeding primarily on grasses and leaves, and are known for their incredible speed and agility.
Over the years, the population of this species in Niger has dropped by over 80%.
This decline is caused primarily by habitat loss due to human activities such as farming, grazing, deforestation, and the construction of dams and other infrastructure.
Hunting has also played a primary role in the decline of the dama gazelle population in Niger.
These animals are prized for their meat and hide and are often hunted illegally for sport or profit.
3. Saharan Cheetah
Only a few areas of the Sahara Desert are home to the endangered Saharan cheetah, also known as the Northwest African cheetah.
Saharan cheetahs inhabit a few nations, including Niger, where several threats have jeopardized their survival chances.
Scientifically named Acinonyx jubatus hecki, the IUCN has them listed as critically endangered since 2008.
Saharan cheetahs are a subspecies of cheetahs well-adapted to the harsh desert environment.
They have a lighter coat color that makes them blend better with the sandy environment and are smaller than their savannah-dwelling siblings.
Saharan cheetahs also have a shorter, virtually white coat with markings that transition from dark brown on the legs to light brown on the spine.
Their tear stripes are frequently absent, and they have few or no spots.
One of the primary threats to this species is poaching.
The demand for cheetah skins and other body parts in the illegal wildlife trade has increased recently.
Moreover, indiscriminate traps and snares have also contributed to the decline of cheetah populations in Niger.
Conservation organizations like the Sahara Conservation Fund work with local communities and governments to protect cheetah habitats and reduce human-wildlife conflicts.
2. Slender-Horned Gazelle
Known as the rhim gazelle, the slender-horned gazelle (Gazella leptoceros) goes by different names in different African regions.
Depending on the language spoken, some countries use other monikers that translate loosely to the white gazelle, the African sand gazelle, or Loder’s gazelle.
This species inhabits part of the Sahara Desert and arid regions of North Africa, including Niger.
Rhim gazelles are medium-sized ungulates adapted to the harsh conditions of the Sahara.
Their slender bodies are covered in short, sandy-colored fur that helps them blend in with their surroundings.
They have large, expressive eyes set high on their heads, giving them a wide field of vision to detect predators.
The most distinctive feature of rhim gazelles is their long, slender horns that can reach up to 1.9 feet in males and 1.1 feet in females.
Considered an endangered species, around 2,500 slender-horned gazelles are left in the wild.
However, this population faces several threats, including poaching for their horns and meat and habitat loss due to human activities such as farming, grazing, and oil exploration.
Climate change has also impacted their habitat, with rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall, making it more difficult for these animals to find food and water.
1. West African Giraffe
The West African giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis peralta) is also known as the Niger or Nigerian giraffe and is a subspecies found in the Sahel region of West Africa.
This creature is one of the most endangered species of giraffes, with a population of only around 600 individuals left in the wild.
With numerous challenges to the West African giraffe, such as habitat loss, poaching, and droughts, conservation measures are essential for the species’ survival.
The West African giraffe is distinguished from other giraffe subspecies by its lighter coat color and more irregular and jagged spots.
It is also slightly smaller, with males reaching heights of up to 18 feet and females reaching up to 14.7 feet.
This species’ habitats range across Niger’s Termit and Tin Toumma desert regions, where it feeds on the leaves and buds of the acacia trees.
Poaching is one of the most significant threats to this species, as their tails are prized highly in local markets for use in fly whisks and bracelets and their meat for human consumption.
Conservation efforts have been underway to protect the West African giraffe from extinction.
One such effort is the Giraffe Conservation Foundation’s work with the Niger government to establish a protected area for the giraffe in the region.