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Zakouma National Park ticks the boxes…

Zakouma National Park is in the Salamat area of south eastern Chad, between Am Timan and Sarh. This was Chad’s first national park, it covers an area of 3,000 km²

Unlikely to fill mainstream bucket lists, Zakouma is right if you like things hot, untamed and untouched!

Zakouma, Chad aerial in the green season. Thanks to Jean Labuschagne,

Zakouma aerial thanks to Jean Labuschagne, APN.

This is an Africa of intense heat, rugged terrain far from mainstream tourist circuits. Chad is one such safari destination where political instability has resulted in a practically non-existent tourism industry – but that doesn’t mean you can’t go there, the country has been at peace since 2008. Zakouma is a park where they haven’t manufactured authenticity.

The entire park is surrounded by the Bahr Salamat Faunal Reserve.

Zakouma National Park is a threatened sanctuary for a small population of elephants. It’s a different story outside the park where poachers sit and wait – with the arrival of the rains the elephants move outside the perimeter of the park where the hunters track them down – once stripped of their ivory tusks the carcasses are left untouched only to reveal the hole where the tusks have been removed.

Known as the 2006 Zakouma elephant slaughter: a number of poaching massacres around the park resulted in the killing of over 100 elephants between May and August 2006 but the region has a 40 year history of elephant massacre. In 1970 Chad had an elephant population estimated in excess of 300000 but by 2002 this had dramatically dropped down to 4300.

Wildlife Conservation Society conservationist Mike Fay conducted surveys in 2005/2006 which were commissioned by the Chad government – the results show that the elephant population of Zakouma had seen a decline from 3885 down to 3020 individuals.

On a positive note… no elephants have been poached in the park in over three years and over two years in the periphery of the park. The elephant herd is now breeding again, there are a confirmed 21 new calves and the National Park states that the number is now nearer 30 calves.

The park is held in high esteem as a major wildlife conservation area. Previous visitors to the park have raved about it, serious safari travellers who have visited Africa on safari many times comment that Zakouma has been ‘the highlight’ of their travels, an incredible destination if you’re prepared to be adventurous.

Zakouma National Park Courtesy Milchael Viljoen African Parks

Visitors tend to avoid these areas but it’s in fact their perception of risk that makes them do so. The recent Ebola outbreak hasn’t helped but the areas affected are so distant to the Ebola outbreak area of West Africa many in Europe live closer to the affected area than the popular safari hubs of Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa where travellers have thought twice about going.

Visitors prepared to take the ‘risk’ will be rewarded by discovering conservation first hand. Many areas of Africa have seen their Governments struggle to manage the parks but thanks to the Chadian Government having the foresight to hand over the management of Zakouma to African Parks, the results have been overwhelming:

  • The increased numbers of larger mammal species: buffalo, giraffe, Lelwell’s hartebeest and roan antelope are all on the rise.
  • Work is now concentrating around the protection of the elephant which has had a positive knock-on effect on the flora and fauna within this unique ecosystem.

Zakouma’s Tinga Junction Pool is an abundant wildlife gathering destination, here you can sit and interact with the creatures and they react to you – if that’s what you’re looking for in a Zakouma safari – it’s achievable here.

 Further reading

  • The country that brought its elephants back from the brink: BBC update December 2017 with country profile for Chad where Zakouma is home to one of the biggest single herds of elephants anywhere in Africa.
  • Prince Harry Officially Appointed President of African Parks: announced publicly on Wednesday December 27th, 2017. Follow the soundcloud link for a 5 minute interview and update on Zakouma.
  • Conservationist J. Michael Fay and National Geographic photographer Michael Nichols travelled to Zakouma during the wet season in 2006, documenting its wonders, and discovering the delicate nature of this rare refuge. See the project on mediastorm.com. 9 minutes of essential viewing

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Zakouma’s Black breasted barbet 

From YouTube