Chad's Elephants: Back from the Brink

Josh Wright

23 Oct 2017

Chad's latest conservation success story is worth trumpeting about

Zakouma National Park in the central African state of Chad covers almost 1,200 square miles and contains what is likely Africa’s largest remaining elephant herd, with over 500 individuals calling the extensive landscape of savannah home. This doesn’t tell the whole story though. At the start of the twenty-first century there were some 4,000 elephants in Zakouma, but between 2006 and 2010 this population plummeted to just 400 as a result of intensive poaching. 

This tragedy was part of a wider decline in savannah elephants across the whole of Africa, whose populations dropped by 30% between 2007 and 2014.

The problems caused by the continuing demand for ivory in China and other foreign nations was exacerbated by border conflicts in neighbouring Sudan, which made responding to the crisis on the ground increasingly difficult. To make matters worse, there were no reported elephant births in Zakouma between 2010 and 2013, attributed to the stress caused by years of massacres. Despite the species’ long gestation period – 22 months – many believed this to be a death knell for Zakouma’s elephants, with experts predicting the entire population would be gone in two to three years if action wasn’t taken.

It was at the start of these ominous three years that African Parks stepped in. The South African NGO helped to increase security in Zakouma, implementing effective law enforcement measures and establishing vital community networks that have helped to halt the vicious poaching campaign inflicted on the park’s elephants.

Zakouma’s rangers received specialist training and were supplied with GPS units and radios to aid in communication, as well as horses to traverse the land they surveyed. After six men were killed by poachers in 2012, a crack team of rapid-response rangers named the Mambas were formed to combat the criminals head-on. In addition, new bases and an airstrip were built, a second aircraft was purchased, and bonds were established with community headmen, who were given radios and told to contact park officials if they spotted any illegal activity.

Some of Zakouma’s elephant were also outfitted with radio collars to better keep track of the herds within the park. 

In 2012, it was discovered that a group of 200 had travelled 60 miles beyond the park’s boundary, where poachers had killed four members of the herd. Since then, the elephants have stayed within Zakouma, making conservation work easier. After the lack of births in the preceding three-year period, 2014 and 2015 saw around 50 babies born, with a further 70 following in 2016.

Work is also underway to upgrade the nearby Siniaka-Minia Faunal Reserve to a national park, which would bring increased protection to Zakouma’s elephants should they choose to venture forth again during the rainy season. The population in Zakouma may never recover to the level it reached before the last decade’s devastating poaching campaign, but the fact that the elephants have rebounded at all makes them a true conservation success story.

African Parks’ introduction of luxury campsites has also brought much-needed investment to Zakouma, with the profits expected to add around $250,000 to the park’s annual budget. The national park is one of Africa’s last great wildernesses, and you can experience the wonders of its wildlife yourself by embarking on our Zakouma safari. Stay in a traditional-style tented camp, engage with the African Parks Conservation Network and witness the spectacle of Zakouma’s elephant herds with your very own eyes.

Trip Details

small group information

We run set departures to Zakouma National Park, where you can stay in a mobile tented camp, engage with the African Parks Conservation Network and witness the spectacle of Zakouma’s elephants and other wildlife with your very own eyes. Conducted alongside naturalist Richard Anderson, this trip has limited space for just 8 guests. Daily activities will be decided by your guide based on weather conditions and wildlife activity.

Please see the full itinerary for more information.

For more of an insight into this safari, read NWS MD Will Bolsover's Chad safari blog!

2019 Travel Dates  Prices 
Feb 10 - 18 From £10,970


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Comments

Kehinde Ajumobi

5/11/2017 8:26 PM

It's the circle of life in its finest.

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