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. Simply the very best from Cometowestafrica.