Zakouma National Park in Chad paints an idyllic picture of wild Africa. But this wasn’t always the case.
Just seven years ago, the park, and especially its elephants, had been decimated.
Between 2002 to 2010, Zakouma lost 95% of its elephants – almost 4,000 were poached; where often multiple family units would be killed at the same time, and for one thing – their ivory tusks.
And the poachers weren’t just slaughtering the wildlife, they were leaving a wake of destruction and instability for the local communities living around the park.
In 2010, African Parks on invitation by the Chadian government, signed a long-term management agreement for Zakouma. Our first step was in overhauling law enforcement and working with the surrounding communities to better protect the landscape.
It wasn’t for the faint of heart.
In 2012, six of our rangers were gunned down execution style during their morning prayer. But in what was a show of indomitable spirit, our rangers didn’t give up. Because of their efforts, between 2012 and 2014 not one single known elephant was lost to poaching inside the park.
Along with providing law enforcement, we built ‘Elephant Schools’ for communities living near the park, providing desks, blackboards and salaries for the teachers, helping more than 1,500 children get an education.
We built airstrips, and VHF radios were installed so community members could contact our control room at any time. And because of needed manpower to help manage the park, local employment grew, making Zakouma National Park the largest employer in the region. With law enforced and security reclaimed, tourism could then be realized. The tourist camps started to be heavily frequented delivering needed funds back into the park to protect its wildlife.
And then something miraculous happened. Elephants were able to be elephants once again.
For the first time in many years, they began to breed, and could raise their young. Earlier this year we counted 81 elephant calves under the age of three years old. In 2011, we counted one.
Elephants have now surpassed 550 individuals, and are on the rise for the first time in seven years.
The story of Zakouma is a tale of a park rising from the ashes, and an unlikely story of redemption – not just for the elephants, but perhaps for humanity.
And we couldn’t do this without your support.
Please consider a donation to African Parks before the end of the year.
100% of your donation goes directly to the parks, and supports efforts like these. Because of a generous donor, your donation will be matched 1:1 up until December 31st. We are 85% towards our goal of raising $40,000
Thank you helping us be able to share stories like these.
With sincerest thanks,
P.S. In case you missed it, please click here to see the recent BBC video on Zakouma. And click here to learn more about Prince Harry being appointed as the President of African Parks.