Save the Elephants!

Ivory Wars: Last Stand in Zakouma

Late in August of 2006 Mike Fay, a WILD trustee and Wildlife Conservation Society biologist, lead a survey crew in Zakouma National Park (Chad) which discovered 5 elephant massacre sites, totaling over 100 poaching kills in just 8 days. The elephant carcasses were left at the kill site and the ivory tusks were extracted brutally for illegal sale. The sale of ivory has been internationally banned since 1989; however as is evident from Fay’s survey, illegal ivory trade is flourishing, endangering elephant populations.

Zakouma National Park, located in Chad, a landlocked country in north central Africa, was established in 1963 and was the first national park declared in the country. The park encompasses an area of almost 3000 square kilometers (1200 square miles) and is situated within the Bahr Salamat Faunal Reserve, providing habitat for lion and elephant, as well as over 50 other species of mammals and birds. In an effort to continue preservation of the park, the Chadian government recently nominated Zakouma National Park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a distinction of “outstanding value to humanity.”

While in the park, elephants are protected by the Chadian government and the EU. However, during the wet season, from May to October, a large percentage of the population leaves the park in search of food, and therefore has no protection from poachers. In addition, the political and social conflicts in the area continue to challenge conservation efforts.

WILD toke a rapid response approach to address the recent elephant poaching, working with the Chadian government and local park rangers to deter and detain poachers using an anti poaching surveillance aircraft. The aircraft is running surveillance missions twenty hours per week, focusing on park boarders and known migration corridors.

As this program arose due to a crisis situation, WILD needed help to supporting the “rapid response” purchase, management and maintenance of the aircraft surveillance program. We’ve partnered with the Wildlife Conservation Society who now operates the major field project in the area. The US Fish and Wildlife Service assisted WILD and WCS to initiate this effort, and the Disney Conservation Fund and The Tapeats Foundation provided additional support.