Zakouma Park in Chad, once plagued with ivory trade and elephant poaching, has successfully increased elephant population and eliminated poaching within the park in the past 8 years.
Zakouma is Chad’s oldest national park. It was established by the nation’s government in 1963. The park covers 3049 km2 with a greater ecosystem of about 30,693km2. The Siniaka Mania Faunal Reserve also takes up some of that land with about 4643km2.
Both of these protected areas now fall under the management of African Parks, which began working with Chad’s government to help manage and protect the park and its wildlife in 2010. The Government of Chad also extended the African Park’s mandate last October to assume management of a much larger landscape, promising that they will benefit both the local communities and the wildlife.
The park was once severely threatened by ivory trade and poaching. Elephant populations decreased by 3650 individuals in just one year and in 2007, militia forces attacked the park’s headquarters for its stockpile of 1.5 tons of ivory. Three rangers were killed.
Thanks to the management of African Parks, as well as €6.9m pledged by the European Union in 2011, poaching has been eliminated and elephant populations are on the rise, with over 550 individual elephants counted in 2016. This is the first time that elephants have been on the increase in over a decade.
The park’s anti-poaching strategy is to equip approximately 60 rangers with GPS tracking units and radios. This improves communications, mobility, and safety. Mobility is also improved through the use of horses and motor vehicles for transportation. Satellite collars have also been fitted to elephant herds, allowing the park manager to monitor them.
Elephant protection has also expanded outside the boundaries of the park. In 2012, an airstrip was constructed in Heban in order to make it easier to monitor animal migrations.
There have been setbacks however. In August of 2012, poachers attacked a Zakouma outpost at Heban and killed multiple guards, following the destruction by rangers of a camp belonging to members of the Sudanese army after four elephants were killed. After the poachers’ attack, more bases were built, a second aircraft was purchased. A response team, named the “Mambas” was created to enhance security.
23 guards have died protecting Zakouma since 1998.
Now, security has been restored and wildlife is successfully rebounding. The park is a popular tourist destination. The ecosystem is situated just south of the Sahara Desert and north of the Central African rainforest regions. It is a safe haven for the Kordofan giraffe.
Zakouma also provides extensive community outreach, improving the lives of the local human populations in addition to the animal ones. It is one of the biggest employers in the regions of Salamat and Guera. A number of new schools, called Elephant Schools have also been built in areas within the elephant migration zones. According to the African Parks website, 1267 students received education from Zakouma supported schools.
The park ensures that locals get to experience its beauty as well by arranging visits so that 5000 Chadians visit the park each year. By reaching out to the community, the community also supports the park. Locals notify the park authorities of any suspicious activities or threats.
Some of the camps that you can stay at n the park include the Tinga Camp, Camp Nomade, and Camp Salamat, These have seen an influx of local and international tourists. The highest numbers of game are found in the late dry season which is in March, April, and May, but the camp is great to visit all year around, each season offering differently types of wildlife.
The park plans to improve its education curriculum for its Elephant and Secko schools and expand their programmes. They also plan to reintroduce the black rhino and create an elephant corridor beyond the park.
Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons