7 Does Crocodile Conservation Matter in Sacred Natural Sites of Benin (Western Africa)?

  • R. Bio Ouré
  • G. N. Kpéra
  • B. Kassa
  • C. A. M. S. Djagoun
  • A. Natta
  • J. G. Djego
  • E. A. Eniang
  • G. A. Mensah
  • B. Sinsin
Keywords: Community-based conservation, Endogenous beliefs, Remote sensing, Sacred Natural Sites, Totems


Crocodiles are protected species present in Sacred Natural Sites (SNS) in Benin.The impact of SNSs on the conservation of crocodylians in Benin were carried out by (i) assessing the extent to which anthropogenic activities affect crocodylians' population, and (ii) analysing the impact of social and religious changes for the conservation of crocodylians over a timescale. The characteristics of the crocodile population and habitats in 11 SNSs during daytime and night were also provided. Semi-structured interviews with 330 respondents were conducted and land use/land cover changes with 2000 and 2020 remote sensing data were analysed. The West Africa crocodile (Crocodylus suchus) was recorded in 81.8% SNS and consisted of 61.5% hatchlings, 15.6% juveniles, 11.85% subadults, and 11.1% adults (N= 135 crocodiles). With increasing degradation of natural ecosystems and increasing settlements/agricultural lands, there has been a significant decrease in crocodile abundance and extirpation (18.2% SNSs). Communities perceived crocodiles as sacred, a link with ancestors, the god of fertility, and a way to preserve water. Nevertheless, respondents also perceived the negative impact of introduced religions (70.9%) and no longer worshiped sacred crocodiles (52.7%) due to religious prohibition. Raising awareness, and participatory management of SNSs with the communities would help to mitigate the threats.