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African Success Story - African Parks in Zakouma

Raids and slaughter in Zakouma

Back in 2010 Zakouma National Park desperately needed help.  It was hard to imagine the African Success Story it would become.  Over an eight year period, armed militia groups killed some 4,000 elephants– 95% of the park’s population.  Based just across the border in some of Africa’s most unstable countries, these gunmen on horseback launched raid after raid on Zakouma.

All simply for profit, and to feed the insatiable market for ivory in the Far East. 

A few locals joined the free-for-all, and things became so bad that at one point poachers slaughtered over 60 elephant in one attack.

In addition, the rebel horsemen posed a threat to local communities.  Fully armed, they just took whatever they wanted – ivory, crops, provisions, women!

With perhaps less than 400 elephants remaining, the park shut down completely. Most people assumed that Zakouma’s elephants would be lost for ever.  To all intents the park had been written off - just another victim of central Africa’s endless civil wars.

Conservation turnaround

Yet, the president of Chad, Idriss Déby, is a passionate lover of wildlife.  In desperation he reached out to African Parks, and asked for their help.  This non profit NGO already had a fantastic track record - solving problems for other parks in Africa.  And so it happened that, in 2010, African Parks took over the day to day running of the park.

With African Parks at the helm the situation changed almost immediately. 

African Park’s success is primarily due to their no-nonsense, long-term management strategy, and strong focus on economic development and poverty alleviation.  When I met the current Park Director, Leon Lambrecht, he explained the simple formula they use - the 3 things African Parks need put in place before they will take it on:

  • Mandate – the government must agree to give them total control for a fixed period.
  • Money – there must be funds in place for at least 5 years.
  • Management – there must be a firm and effective management structure.  The aim is for the park to become economically self-sustaining.

So, with the Chadian government on board, and the 3 ‘M’s’ in place, African Parks set about transforming the lives of the park’s wildlife and the local communities. 

  • Training elite anti-poaching units to provide law enforcement.
  • Creating ‘elephant schools’ which enabled over 1500 children to get an education.
  • Building airstrips for surveillance aircraft and speedy response times.
  • Fitting radio collars on elephants.
  • Issuing VHF radios to community leaders so they could report illegal activity.
  • Training and employing local people, so that the park is now one of the region’s biggest employers.

Peace is restored in Zakouma

Following a final, retribution-style raid where poachers brutally gunned  down 6 rangers, the park staff were shocked, but then rallied and redoubled their efforts.

Since 2010, Zakouma has lost only 24 known elephants. And none since January 2016!

With the stress of constant attacks finally over, the elephants are breeding once more.  And with the elephant numbers increasing so too is the rest of the wildlife in the park - including some of Africa’s rarest species, such as: Kordofan giraffe, Red-fronted gazelle, northern carmine bee eaters, northern crowned cranes.

African Parks now fully funds two boarding schools, giving the local communities access to higher education and employment.

Nomadic children who stay here during the dry season have started education too, with the first experimental nomad schools.

So, thanks to the Chadian government and African Parks, a miracle has happened here in this landlocked country in central Africa.  Zakouma National Park in Chad is a peaceful, safari destination once more, despite the fact that it is surrounded by turbulent and troublesome neighbours.

The elephants of Zakouma are now growing in number for the first time in a decade.  They have many young calves, and numbers are well on their way to reaching 1000 once more.

Tourists are returning, and African Parks will now improve the camps and lodges for the visitors.

African Success Story

Soon, African Parks and the Chadian Government will officially increase the greater Zakouma ecosystem.  This will mean the creation of critical wildlife corridors, and larger areas for the herds to access during the rainy season.  So that, when the elephant numbers do increase there will be more room for them, and therefore, less animal/human conflict. Local communities and wildlife are learning to co-exist once more…..in peace.

African Parks involvement with Zakouma is, quite simply,  a wonderful African success story!

To visit Zakouma and experience this success story yourself, contact us now.