Within North Africa’s unforgiving and arid Sahel region lies a national park that has risen from the depths of devastation to become one of Africa’s most remarkable wildlife destinations. Zakouma National Park (ZNP), within the Republic of Chad, straddles the arid deserts of North Africa and the lush savannah of Central Africa. Although Chad and its neighbouring countries have struggled considerably with political stability and security, ZNP is a great success story coming out of the region. ZNP has seen prosperity, devastation and everything in between, but with the amazing efforts of African Parks and generous donors, ZNP is shaping up to be one of Africa’s most talked about wildlife destinations worth visiting.
History of Zakouma
ZNP is an important area of conservation for the Sudano-Sahelian ecosystem. The story of Zakouma begins in 1963 when it was decreed a national park, giving it the highest form of protection. For 10 – 12 years ZNP enjoyed a great deal of prosperity. In 1975 there was a coup in the country, and for the next 30 years Chad was plunged into intermittent periods of order and civil conflict. ZNP consequently suffered from all the repercussions that came with the fighting and unrest. Rampant wildlife poaching, particularly to the elephant population (for ivory to fund the ongoing conflict), put the park on the brink of complete collapse.
African Parks Take Control
In 2010 African Parks took on the mammoth task of breathing new life into ZNP and putting a stop to the scourge of poaching. African Parks has a great track record when it comes to the stewardship of national parks and reserves. ZNP was in one of Africa’s most troubled regions though, so it would be a true test of African Parks’ capacity and experience. Through promoting economic development and poverty alleviation, African Parks has had great success in ZNP. Some achievements include:
- After two years of taking over management, elephant poaching was halted within the extended elephant range
- In 1986 the buffalo population was 220, now it numbers over 10,000
- Tracking collars have been fitted to elephant herds, meaning better monitoring and easy deployment of field patrols
- Improved communication channels between the park authorities and communities means rangers can be notified of threats and suspicious activity
- The team at ZNP has successfully established a security force and anti-poaching unit(s)
- 1,267 children receive education from Zakouma supported schools
What Does This Mean for Travelers?
ZNP still faces a great number of challenges, but for all the challenges it has already overcome, visitors will be surprised at just how well it competes with other national parks in Africa. For such a remote region, the park is professionally run and the concentration of wildlife will astonish visitors.
The journey to ZNP is not easy, but this is not your run-of-the-mill safari destination. There are very few places in the world that make you feel like you are one of the few people who have set foot somewhere and ZNP is one of these destinations. Although ZNP is still trying to find its feet after decades of neglect and conflict, this is a destination that hasn’t been experienced by many people.
After eight years of hard work and tackling a seemingly never ending list of challenges, wildlife is beginning to thrive again in ZNP. Elephants, lions, wildebeest, leopards, baboons and water buffalo are just a couple of Zakouma’s residents. Wildlife reintroductions have been at the heart of Zakouma’s resurgence. One of the most exciting was the reintroduction of black rhino in May this year (the last recorded sighting of black rhino in the park was in 1972). There are also 388 species of birds that reside within Zakouma, and the park’s floodplains, marshes and pans are a valuable breeding ground for birds. Forty raptor species can be spotted in the park, along with an abundance of northern carmine bee-eaters and red-billed queleas.
It’s been slow going to breathe new life into ZNP but the rewards are slowly beginning to show. ZNP was once a place that didn’t receive a look in from safari goers and nature lovers, but that’s slowly beginning to change. Travelling itself is rewarding, but travelling to unexplored and unfamiliar destinations make for some of the best memories. Wild Frontiers is thrilled to announce a scheduled departure to ZNP in 2019. For more information please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow this link for further details on the tour.