Central Africa is one of the last regions with a sizable population of African elephant, but their numbers are only a fraction of what they used to be. In Zakouma National Park in Chad there are an estimated 600 elephants. Twenty years ago there were 40,000.
Zakouma takes up 3,000 square kilometers of savanna in southern Chad and has populations of elephants, giraffes, lions, cranes, and other animals. It’s the number one tourist destination in the country and the government is trying to preserve the wildlife for the sake of the tourist industry
Nomadic tribes passing through the region hunt the elephants with AK-47s. Ivory sells for about $40 a kilo in Chad, a country where the average annual income is $530. In other words, one good tusk is worth a year’s wages. The ivory is exported to more developed nations for jewelry or folk medicines, especially China.
Armed guards patrol the park, but it’s a huge area to cover and poachers won’t hesitate to murder them if they get in the way. Ten guards have been killed defending the elephants. Now there are about seventy guards in the park and they’ve been given new training and weapons. The Wildlife Conservation Society helps out by monitoring the elephant populations, and giving monetary support and air reconnaissance. Like the Giraffe Conservation Foundation in Niger, an NGO and the government of a developing country are working together to save some of Africa’s most amazing wildlife. I hope they succeed. My four-year-old loves elephants and I want them to still be around when he’s my age.
Photos of the park and conservation efforts can be seen here.