Wildlife of the West African Savannah: unfamiliar and under threat

9 May 2017 18:00

The savannah of West Africa extends from the Atlantic coast eastwards across to Chad, bounded by the Sahel to the north, and merging into the forests of upper Guinea, the Cameroon highlands and Congo basin in the South. 

Historically this region was renowned for its wildlife and teemed with large fauna that is more typically associated with East and Southern Africa.  Significant populations of African elephant, West African giraffe, West African lion, North West African cheetah, African wild dog and ungulates were once found across this region. 

Today, the wildlife of West Africa is restricted to isolated pockets that face massive ongoing pressures leading to the threat of extinction. 

African elephant numbers are in the low thousands and the West African lion population, genetically closer to the Asian lion than lions in East and South Africa, now numbers less than 500. 

African wild dogs are thought to be confined to a few individuals in one protected area in Senegal. 

This meeting will celebrate the amazing biodiversity of the savannah systems of West Africa, still relatively unknown in the anglophone world. It will discuss the ecological history of the region, the threats being faced, and the work under way to conserve it.



  1. David Mallon, Chair, Co-Chair, IUCN/SSC Antelope Specialist Group
    Overview of the status of large fauna in the West African savannah region and its ecological history

  • Audrey Ipavec, ZSL Coordinator for the Range Wide Conservation Program for Cheetah and African Wild dogs, Northern, Western and Central Africa
    The WAP complex, an example of trans-boundary conservation in an intact remnant of West African savannah

Dr Audrey Ipavec is a wildlife ecologist who has been working in Southern and Western African savanna ecosystems since 1999. Resident in Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger, West Africa, from 2002 to 2009, she obtained a PhD studying elephant population distribution in the W Regional Park the she has been lecturing on ecology and human wildlife conflict until the end of 2013, when she joined the RWCP team (Range Wide Conservation Program for cheetah and African wild dogs) as the regional coordinator in Northern, Western and Central Africa, based in Benin.

  • Susan Canney, University of Oxford and WILD Foundation
    Mali’s remarkable “desert-adapted” elephants: how they have survived and how they can be conserved

Susan Canney is the Director of the Mali Elephant Project, a joint initiative of the WILD Foundation and the International Conservation Fund of Canada. She had previously worked on a variety of nature conservation projects in Africa, Asia and Europe, and as a policy researcher at the Green College Centre for Environmental Policy & Understanding. She is a Research Associate of the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford, a Trustee of Tusk Trust, a member of the African Elephant Specialist Group, and has co-authored a recently published book on "Conservation" for Cambridge University Press, which takes a global perspective to bring conservation to the heart of sustainability and environmental policy.

  • Chaired by  Paul De Ornellas, Africa Programme Manager, ZSL 

Attending this event

  • This Science and Conservation Event is free to attend and booking is not required.

  • Venue: Huxley Lecture Theatre, Main Meeting Rooms, ZSL London Zoo. See map

  • Underground – Camden Town Station; Nearest bus - no. 274

  • Doors open at 5pm for a 6pm start.

  • Seats are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

  • A drinks reception for ZSL Fellows and their guests is held from 5 – 5:50pm.  More information on ZSL Fellowship can be found here.

Book a 3-course dinner with the speakers

  • All attendees are welcome to attend a 3-course dinner with the speakers after the event. 

  • Dinner places cost £35 per person (including 2 glasses of wine).  Bookings should be made via the link above.



  • Contact Jennifer Howes, Scientific Events Coordinator jennifer.howes@zsl.org; 0207 449 6227

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