Zakouma National Park in Chad is home to some of the continent’s endangered animals. It became quite famous for restoring the habitat for African elephants, whose numbers had decreased due to poaching.
Situated just south of the Sahara Desert and above the fertile rainforest regions, Zakouma has become a safe haven for Central and West African wildlife. Located 45km from Am Timam town, Zakouma was founded in 1963. However, civil conflict led to the neglect of the park until 1989 when the government started a restoration programme with the support of the European Union. The period during the conflict and neglect saw the reduction of wildlife species, but the numbers increased after the rehabilitation.
According to African Wildlife Foundation, up to 35,000 African elephants were killed last year. However, in Zakouma, 120 elephants births took place between 2014 and 2016, increasing the park’s elephant population to 500.
Apart from the elephants, the park is home to the lion, stripped and spotted hyena, leopard and other small species of predators. Also living in the park are a selection of herbivores and primates including the olive baboon, the patas and tantalus monkeys.
The park is also a haven for bird watchers, with 388 bird species. The floodplains, pans, rivers and marshes makes Zakouma a perfect stop-over and breeding ground for various species of birds. The South Eastern wetlands of the park are one of the biggest Ramsar site in the world. A Ramsar Site is a wetland site designated of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
Other species in the park are also increasing in number, including giraffe, roan antelope and Lelwel’s hartebeest. The park’s buffalo population, reduced to about 220 animals in 1986, numbers over 10,000 today.
The park managers, African Parks intend to introduce the extinct species back into the park: the Western black rhino and Lord Derby’s eland, which disappeared in 1972 and in the mid-1980s respectively. They also hope that the hippo, which has not been seen in the park for a long time, would return.
With its variety of flora and fauna, Zakouma is a natural resource to the local population. To ensure that the wildlife is protected the park management works together with the community and encourages them to report any threats or suspicious activities to park authorities.
The community outreach program and the elephant schools ensure that Chadian children visit the park and receive education about wildlife.
The Park is open to tourists between November and May, when it is beautifully lush and perfect for pictures. Most animals congregate at the park from March to May before the wet season of May to October where the park is completely closed to all tourist activity.