© Marcus Westberg

Did you know that the number of African elephants poached has doubled in just the past decade? The African elephant population, estimated at around 400,000 individuals, is now likely to be in decline in all African sub-regions. The decline is mostly being driven by the lucrative and deadly $20-billion illegal wildlife trade which is causing species declines around the globe. However, what’s happening in Zakouma National Park in Chad, is bringing hope for the fight against the illegal trade and for elephants in Africa. Between 2002 to 2010, more than 4,000 elephants in Zakouma were slaughtered by poachers for one thing – their tusks - for the illegal sale of ivory. These poachers not only caused devastation to this elephant population, but to the surrounding human communities as well.

But since 2010, together with the Chadian Government, we have drastically reduced poaching in Zakouma, and only 24 known elephants have been poached in the last eight years. Without the stress and threat of poaching, elephants have started breeding again, and are raising their young. Just this year we documented 127 calves under the age of five years old; in 2011 we counted only one. And in May of this year, thanks to the security the park now provides, we were able to reintroduced the first six of 20 black rhinos – bringing the species back to the park after almost a 50-year absence. Our rangers are the boots on the ground who are working to stop the Illegal Wildlife Trade at the source of where these threatened and endangered species live in the wild.