Zakouma National Park in Chad is one of Africa’s most remarkable stories of transformation. Between 2002 to 2010, 95% of the parks’ elephants were poached – almost 4,000 were slaughtered for their ivory, and poachers would often take out multiple family units at the same time. Not only were they destroying the parks wildlife, they were wreaking havoc on local people too. In 2010, African Parks, on invitation by the Chadian Government, signed a long-term agreement to manage Zakouma and stop the bloodshed. Our first step was to overhaul law enforcement, but it wasn’t for the faint of heart.

In 2012, six of our rangers were gunned down execution-style during their morning prayers. But our rangers, with their indomitable spirits, didn’t give up. Because of their efforts and effective community work, only 24 known elephants have been lost to poaching since 2010. Along with providing law enforcement, we built ‘Elephant Schools’ for local communities, providing desks, blackboards and teachers’ salaries, 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 with information about any illegal activity. People were employed to help manage the park, making Zakouma one of the largest employers in the region. With law enforced and security reclaimed, tourists began to visit, delivering needed revenue back to the park and local communities.

With peace restored to the region, something miraculous happened. Elephants were able to be elephants once again, and for the first time in years, they began to breed and raise their young. In early 2018, we counted 103 calves under the age of three. In 2011, we counted one. The elephant population has now surpassed 559 individuals and are on the rise for the first time in a decade. In October 2017, we doubled our footprint around Zakouma by signing an MoU with the Government to manage the Greater Zakouma Ecosystem, which includes Siniaka Minia Faunal Reserve and other critical wildlife corridors.We’ve come a long way since 2010. The story of Zakouma is of a park rising from the ashes and becoming an unlikely tale of redemption, for people and animals alike.

Greater Zakouma Ecosystem covers an expansive 30,693 km2, of which 7,692 km2 includes Zakouma National Park (3,049 km2) and Siniaka Mania Faunal Reserve (4,643 km2). Both of these protected areas fall under the direct management of African Parks. This ecosystem, which is situated just south of the Sahara Desert and above the fertile rainforest regions, comprises of critical conservation areas for key species in Central Africa. The total area impacted by the expanded management agreement also includes Bahr-Salamat (13,000 km2) and adjoining wildlife corridors (10,000 km2).

Zakouma Highlights


  • Zakouma was declared a national park in 1963 by Presidential Decree, giving it the highest form of protection available under the laws of Chad.
  • Within two years of taking over management, African parks entirely halted elephant poaching within the extended elephant range.
  • Today the elephant population of Zakouma is on the rise, with new-born calves being observed from mid-2013 onwards and the population now exceeds 550 individuals.
  • Other species in the park are also increasing in number, including the kordofan giraffe (of which 50% of their global population is found in Zakouma), roan antelope and Lelwel’s hartebeest. The park’s buffalo population, reduced to about 220 animals in 1986, numbers over 10,000 today.
  • Satellite collars have been fitted to elephant herds, allowing the park management team to monitor them and deploy field patrols accordingly.
  • In 2018, a partnership between the governments of Chad and the South Africa enabled African Parks to translocate a founder population of six black rhinos to Zakouma, hailing the return of the species after almost half a century of its absence.
  • Communities work with the park to ensure the protection of wildlife. By extending the park’s communication network to villages, the flow of information has been improved so that communities can notify park authorities of any suspicious activity or threats.
  • Zakouma is one of the biggest employers in the regions of Salamat and Guera and provides additional opportunities for local income generation through the local procurement of park and tourist camp supplies.
  • The community outreach visits arranged by the park ensured that about 3,500 Chadian children and villagers visited the park in 2017.
  • A number of new schools, called Elephant Schools, have been built in areas within the elephant migration zone and in 2017, and more than 1,200 children received educations from Zakouma-supported schools.
  • The park’s Tinga Camp, Camp Nomade and Camp Salamat have seen an influx of local and international tourists, providing local employment and trade opportunities.



Zakouma National Park is managed in partnership between African Parks and the Chadian government. The Chadian government and the European Union approached African Parks in 2010 to assume  management responsibility of Zakouma in order to put an end to the ongoing scourge of elephant poaching. The mandate agreement was signed in June 2010 and African Parks commenced management of the park and periphery in the October of the same year. In October 2017, we doubled our footprint around Zakouma by signing an MoU with the Government to manage the Greater Zakouma Ecosystem, which includes Siniaka Minia Faunal Reserve and other critical wildlife corridors.