The decrease of elephant poaching in Zakouma is a great success story – particularly as it is an example of how management can work with local communities to ensure that both people and wildlife benefit from increased security.
Additional rangers were employed from local communities around the park and underwent extensive training in a number of key skills, including shooting and arrest tactics to augment the ranger corps in place, and to form the specialist Rapid Response Unit, known as Mamba. In-house training is given to this team on a regular basis.
In the mid-2000s, a wave of elephant poaching hit Chad, and Zakouma National Park in particular. Between 2006 and 2008, a staggering 2,000 elephants were killed in the park and its surrounding areas by armed groups coming in from as far afield as the Darfur region of Sudan. Poachers mounted on horseback would fire indiscriminately into densely packed elephant herds, resulting in devastating massacres of up to 60 animals at any given incident.
Tragically, on 3 September 2012, an entire patrol team was assassinated at Heban Outpost (90 km north of Zakouma), which saw six rangers killed. A revised anti-poaching plan was prepared in response to this new, more dangerous threat to the park rangers, which resulted in amongst others initiatives, the creation of the Mamba team.
As the African savannah elephant is the flagship species of Zakouma, the priority of park management is to stop the rampant poaching of elephants completely. Initially, a better understanding of the elephants’ movements was needed, and to achieve this, satellite GPS collars were fitted on individuals in different herds. Anti-poaching patrols became a year-round activity and a central radio control room, manned 24/7 by trained operators, was introduced to monitor the elephant movements and patrol positions throughout the day.
The deployment of anti-poaching patrols is activated from this control room on a daily-basis, based on information on-hand each day. An extensive VHF radio system was put in place to provide communication within the entire elephant range, patrol methods were adjusted and information gathering was improved. A toll-free telephone number was introduced and widely advertised throughout the country to encourage information flow to the National Centre for Elephant Protection in N’Djaména.
Since African Parks took over the management of the park and a comprehensive programme to combat poaching was launched, elephant poaching was brought under control for a period for three years which allowed the herds to settle. Furthermore, the elephants have recommenced breeding following a lull of several years with many calves now being sighted – a clear indication that the herds are recovering from the stresses they experienced in the past.
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