I traveled to Benin not long ago, and I shot this video on a small handheld digital camcorder. This episode of our daily show is a little experiment in trying to convey what this place feels like, first-person, without too many words.
The Pendjari Biosphere lies in Benin's remote rural northwest, along the border of Burkina Faso. Despite poaching and environmental damage, it's still home to a diverse number of species -- elephants, lions, monkeys, cheetah, and around 300 species of birds. We traveled here during the dry season, when animal spotting is easiest. Here is what we saw at dawn (the time of day when critters all come out to the watering holes and rivers).
Poaching is still a big problem in this area, and organized trophy hunting for foreign tourists is still legal and in demand here (mostly visitors from France; Benin is a former French colony and French is the official language). Lion hunts are a lucrative trade in this extremely poor region, where most people are subsistence farmers.
But eco-tourism and less-invasive safari experiences are becoming more important to the local economy here, and offer a more sustainable future.
Note: don't miss the epic baboon ball-grab at 0:35, and the mama elephant ripping tree branches off and getting ready to kill us around 1:50. We were too close to her kids, and we were having a hard time leaving quickly. Do not taunt happy-fun elephant.
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