Zakouma National Park has experienced one of the most spectacular transformations in all of Africa. The national park is part of the Greater Zakouma Ecosystem—the primary safe haven for Central and West African wildlife—but between 2002 and 2010, poachers on horseback ransacked the park, decimating its natural resources while stirring fear and insecurity in local communities. In total, 4,000 elephants—95% of Zakouma’s population—were slaughtered for their ivory in this eight-year period. 

In 2010, the park’s trajectory shifted when the Chadian Government invited African Parks to sign a long-term agreement to restore and manage Zakouma before it was too late. By overhauling law enforcement, providing expert training, and creating communication networks, we restored security to the park and paved the way for a total transformation. Poaching plummeted and wildlife is returning. Giraffe, buffalo and other species have experienced little to no poaching during the past 10 years, and only 24 known elephants have been killed since 2010, with none since January 2016. For the first time in decades, population numbers started increasing, and after years of trauma, elephants resumed breeding. In 2011, we counted one calf under the age of five; in 2018, we documented 127. The elephant population has now surpassed 559 individuals and is on the rise for the first time in a decade.

Our work in the region includes robust community engagement. Since 2013, 17 schools have been built and supported, offering thousands of children a stable education for the first time in their lives. Zakouma has become the largest employer in the region, and tourists are visiting Zakouma to witness its abundance of wildlife.  In recent years, the park’s three camps have seen an influx of local and international tourists, which in turn boosts local employment and trade opportunities.

In October 2017, African Parks doubled its footprint around Zakouma by signing an MoU with the Government of Chad to manage the Greater Zakouma Ecosystem, which includes Zakouma National Park and Siniaka Minia Wildlife Reserve and spans 30,693 km2. The ecosystem comprises critical conservation areas for key species in Central Africa. Our expanded management agreement also covers Bahr-Salamat (13,000 km2) and adjoining wildlife corridors (10,000 km2).

Zakouma has come a very long way since 2010. The park has risen from the ashes to become an unlikely symbol of hope for people and animals alike, and its transformation underscores crucial links between security, sustainable livelihoods, and wildlife conservation.

Zakouma Highlights

  • As many as 4,000 elephants were killed between 2002 and 2010, but since African Parks assumed management of Zakouma in 2010 poaching has been practically eliminated with only 24 known elephants poached in the last decade.
  • Zakouma’s elephant population is now on the rise for the first time in decades. The population now exceeds 559 individuals and in 2018 we counted 127 elephant calves under the age of five; in 2011 we only counted one.
  • 42 elephants are currently fitted with GPS tracking collars, allowing park management to monitor Zakouma’s herds and deploy field patrols when necessary.
  • Other species in the park are increasing in number, including roan antelope, Lelwel’s hartebeest, and kordofan giraffe (notably, Zakouma is home to 50% of the global population). The park’s buffalo population was reduced to about 220 animals in 1986 but now numbers over 12,000.
  • Zakouma has become the largest employer in the region, with the park providing additional opportunities for local income generation by facilitating the local procurement of park and tourism camp supplies and developing commercial community projects, such as honey harvesting and production.
  • In 2019, more than 1,500 children attending 17 African Parks-supported schools received an education; Zakouma contributed nearly $38,000 to cover teacher salaries; and our environmental education programmes and village outreach efforts reached 3,291 children.
  • With law restored and security reclaimed, tourists have begun visiting Zakouma to witness its abundant wildlife. The park’s Tinga Camp, Camp Nomade and Camp Salamat have seen an influx of local and international tourists, which in turn boosts local employment and trade opportunities. In 2019, income from these camps generated over US$1 million for the first time.
  • In October 2017, African Parks signed an MoU with the Government of Chad to manage Siniaka Minia Wildlife Reserve, creating the Greater Zakouma Ecosystem spanning 30,693 km2.
  • In June 2018, six rhinos were reintroduced to the park from South Africa, where unfortunately four died several months after their release, from natural causes related to poor nutritional uptake but the remaining two female rhinos are healthy and are being monitored daily.

 

Partners

Zakouma National Park is managed by African Parks in partnership with the Chadian Government. In 2010, the Chadian Government and European Union approached African Parks to assume management responsibility of the park with the aim of protecting the regions incredible biodiversity and to create a space place for people and wildlife. The mandate agreement was signed in June 2010, and African Parks began managing the park and its periphery that October. In October 2017, we doubled our footprint around Zakouma by signing an MoU with the Government to manage the Greater Zakouma Ecosystem, which includes the Siniaka Minia Faunal Reserve and other critical wildlife corridors.

Partners