The 'WAP' Complex covers a vast savanna area of c.2 million ha, situated at the meeting point of three countries, Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger. It comprises the 'W, Arly and Pendjari National Parks and several contiguous reserves, and is one of the last sanctuaries for herds of large mammals in West Africa. As everywhere in Africa, this protected area has suffered from widespread habitat degradation due to the unsustainable, and mostly illegal, exploitation of its natural resources by a booming human population. More effective conservation measures have progressively been put in place since the 1980s, most recently with the help of the European-funded Ecopas programme. This programme, together with the Centre for International Cooperation and Agricultural Research Cirad (Centre de Cooperation Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Developpement), has now published an attractive and lavishly illustrated guide to the birds of the area. The introductory part briefly but clearly presents the different habitats of the 'WAP' Complex and its avifauna. A complete avifauna is included, which not only lists (with status and abundance) the 455 species that have been recorded to date, but also 79 potential species. The bulk of the book consists of a guide to 128 of the commonest and most easily observed bird species occurring in the area, among them 26 of the complex's 52 raptors. Each species is treated within half a page of text, which covers identification, habitat, breeding and status, and is illustrated by 1-5 colour photographs. Although the guide is primarily aimed at the general public and the novice birdwatcher, it is also useful to the more experienced birder as, apart from the detailed birdlist, it also contains much practical information (e.g. on the best areas to observe birds) and clear colour maps. It is entirely in French, but English bird names are given. As more than half of the 'WAP' Complex, which includes no less than four Important Bird Areas, has been ornithologically surveyed to date, much remains to be learned, and visiting birders could make interesting contributions to the knowledge of the avifauna.
In Africa the book is available at the park offices and the IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement) / Cirad documentation centre in Ouagadougou at 15,000 F CFA, all benefits going to the park. Distribution elsewhere is by the French QUAE publishers (www.Quae.com), with at least €10 per book going to the park.