Africasustainableconservation : Chad – the role of African Parks at Zakouma; is privatisation and greater militarization a good long-term idea, though?
To save wildlife, African governments turn to private management
How this conservation group is successfully fending off human threats in Africa’s degraded parks.
The headquarters at Zakouma National Park, in southeastern Chad, is a sand-colored structure with a crenellated parapet that gives it the look of an old desert fortress. Outside the door to the central control room on the second floor hangs an image of a Kalashnikov rifle, circled in red, with a slash: No weapons allowed inside. Kalashnikovs are ubiquitous in Zakouma. All the rangers carry them. So do the intruders who come to kill wildlife.
Ennedi Reserve, CHAD AP staffers Elsa Bussière and Ali Fodia constrain and examine one of Ennedi’s three remaining West African crocodiles near a crucial water hole called Guelta d’Archeï. Working with crocodile researchers, AP hopes to help this tiny, relict population survive despite human competition for the site’s precious water.
Acacias shade the compound, Land Cruisers arrive and depart, and not many steps away, several elephants drink from a pool. Although the animals seem relaxed here, so close to the headquarters hubbub, they aren’t tame; they are wary but thirsty. Zakouma, a national park since 1963, has at times been a war zone for elephants. Fifty years ago, Chad as a whole may have had as many as 300,000, but from the mid-1980s that number declined catastrophically due to wholesale slaughter by well-armed poachers, until Zakouma became an uneasy refuge for the largest remnant, about 4,000 elephants.
Then, during the first decade of this century, more than 90 percent of Zakouma’s elephant population was butchered, mostly by Sudanese horsemen riding in from the east on paramilitary raids for ivory. (See “Ivory Wars: Last Stand in Zakouma,” National Geographic, March 2007.) These raiders are known as janjaweed, an Arabic word loosely translated as “devils on horseback,” though some ride camels. Their origins lie among nomadic Arab groups, highly skilled equestrians, who, once armed and supported by the Sudanese government, became ruthless strike forces during the conflict in Darfur and, later, freelance bandits lusting after ivory. For a while it seemed they might kill every elephant in Chad.