Benin, a narrow, key-shaped, north-south strip of land in West Africa, lies between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer. Benin's latitude ranges from 6°30′ N to 12°30′ N and its longitude from 1° E to 3°40′ E. Benin is bounded by Togo to the west, Burkina Faso and Niger to the north, Nigeria to the east, and the Bight of Benin to the south. With an area of 112,622 square kilometers, roughly the size of Pennsylvania and slightly bigger than Bulgaria, Benin extends from the Niger River in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the south, a distance of 700 km (435 mi). Although the coastline measures 121 km (75 mi), the country measures about 325 km (202 mi) at its widest point. It is one of the smaller countries in West Africa, about one eighth the size of Nigeria, its neighbor to the east. It is, however, twice as large as Togo, its neighbor to the west. A relief map of Benin shows that it has little variation in elevation (average elevation 200 meters).
The country can be divided into four main areas from the south to the north. The low-lying, sandy, coastal plain (highest elevation 10 meters) is, at most, 10 km wide. It is marshy and dotted with lakes and lagoons communicating with the ocean. The plateaus of southern Benin (altitude comprised between 20 meters and 200 meters) are split by valleys running north to south along the Couffo, Zou, and Oueme Rivers, an area that has been categorised by the World Wildlife Fund as part of the Guinean forest-savanna mosaic ecoregion. Then an area of flat lands dotted with rocky hills whose altitude seldom reaches 400 meters extends around Nikki and Save. Finally, the Atacora mountain range extends along the northwest border and into Togo with the highest point, Mont Sokbaro, at 658 meters.
Benin has fields of lying fallow, mangroves, and remnants of large sacred forests. In the rest of the country, the savanna is covered with thorny scrubs and dotted with huge baobab trees. Some forests line the banks of rivers. In the north and the northwest of Benin the Reserve du W du Niger and Pendjari National Park attract tourists eager to see elephants, lions, antelopes, hippos and monkeys. Previously Benin offered habitat for the endangered Painted Hunting Dog, Lycaon pictus, although this canid is considered to have been extirpated from Benin, due to human population expansion. Woodlands comprise approximately 31 percent of the land area of Benin.
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