African Parks Press Release

 

Six Black Rhinos Arrive Safely in Zakouma National Park, Hailing the Species’ Return to Chad

Six black rhinoceroses have arrived safely in Zakouma National Park in Chad, having flown 3,000-miles after departing South Africa on the 3rdof May. The successful translocation was achieved through an unprecedented collaboration between the Chadian and South African Governments, African Parks and SANParks. 

Johannesburg, South Africa: African Parks announced the update on Friday the 4thof May that six black rhinoceroses translocated from South Africaarrived safely in Zakouma National Park in Chad, hailing the return of the species to the country after almost half a century of its absence. The successful translocation results from an unprecedented collaboration between the South African and Chadian Governments, SANParks and African Parks to restore biodiversity to Chad and improve the long-term conservation of the critically endangered species on the continent. African Parks assumed management of Zakouma National Park in partnership with the Government of the Republic of Chad in 2010, transforming the park in to a secure sanctuary through the implementation of robust law enforcement and extensive community programmes, with specific security measures in place for the reintroduction of rhinoceros. The arrival of the six black rhinos on Friday morning establishes Chad as a new range state for the species, providing a valuable opportunity to expand its distribution in Africa, while contributing to the restoration of Zakouma’s natural system and its role in socio-economic development. 

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The Governments of South Africa and Chad signed a memorandum of understanding in October 2017 to reintroduce six black rhinos to Zakouma National Park in southern Chad. Two years of extensive preparation to ensure the welfare of the animals culminated in the loading of the rhinos in Addo Elephant National Park and their departure from South Africa’s Port Elizabeth Airport on Thursday the 3rdof May, and finally their safe arrival in Zakouma on Friday morning following a 3,000-mile cross continent translocation. Having been attended by a team of experienced vets and other experts for the duration of the journey, the rhinos remain in good condition and were released into purposely constructed enclosures for a period of close monitoring and acclimatisation. In the coming days and weeks, the rhinos will be released into an intensively protected sanctuary in the park, ensuring a healthy transition to their new surroundings.

“The rhinoceros has survived on this planet for millennia, but with fewer than 25,000 remaining due to the insatiable demand for their horns, they are more affiliated with extinction than survival.” Said Peter Fearnhead, CEO of African Parks “Through our partnership with the Government of Chad we have been able to restore security to Zakouma, creating an opportunity to re-establish a Central African population of the species in a secure and functioning park. Today’s reintroduction is an important contribution to the long-term conservation of rhinos in Africa, and also to the enrichment of Chad’s natural heritage”.

Extensive law enforcement measures and community programmes have been implemented in Zakouma since African Parks assumed management in 2010, resulting in the effective elimination of poaching and the recovery of wildlife populations. Today, Zakouma has become a safe haven for some of the most important wildlife populations in the region, and its elephant population is growing for the first time in over a decade. Security measures have been implemented specifically to ensure the ongoing protection and wellbeing of the rhinos in the park. A dedicated rhino ranger unit which received advanced training has been established, and aerial surveillance and numerous other security measures have been implemented for the reintroduction of rhino. These efforts are a reflection of the Chadian Government’s commitment to conserving its parks and wildlife, and are possible because of the support of the European Union.

“We are resolved to create a secure and prosperous future for wildlife and people, so that generations of Chadians can experience the benefits of healthy and intact natural landscapes. It is a mark of the strength of our partnership with African Parks and the transformation of Zakouma in to a secure sanctuary that we are now able to bring rhinos back to Chad where they will receive enduring protection.” Chad’s Ambassador to South Africa Sagour Youssouf Mahamat Itno had said. “Their reintroduction signifies an important advancement in the restoration of the park, furthering its potential as a conservation area to contribute through tourism to local economies and social development”.

The Greater Zakouma Ecosystem covers an expansive 30,693 km2, of which 7,692 km2 includes Zakouma National Park (3,049 km2) and Siniaka Mania Faunal Reserve (4,643 km2). Both of these protected areas fall under the direct management of African Parks. This ecosystem, which is situated just south of the Sahara Desert and above the fertile rainforest regions, comprises of critical conservation areas for key species in Central Africa. The total area impacted by the expanded management agreement also includes Bahr-Salamat (13,000 km2) and adjoining wildlife corridors (10,000 km2).

African Parks has managed Zakouma National Park since 2010, and as a result of our achievements there, the Government of Chad extended our mandate in October of 2017 to assume management of a much larger landscape, securing vital habitats beyond the national park for the benefit of local communities and wildlife.

Zakouma National Park has become a safe haven for Central and West African wildlife including Kordofan giraffe, of which 50% of this entire subspecies lives within Zakouma. Elephants had experienced a 95% loss from rampant poaching prior to African Parks’ involvement. Poaching drove a massive decline in the elephant population, from 4,000 individuals in 2002 to just 450 in 2010.

African Parks assumed management of Zakouma in 2010, and due to effective law enforcement measures and community networks, poaching has been practically eliminated with only a few individuals being lost in the past seven years. The elephant population is finally on the rise; with over 550 individuals counted in 2016, this is the first time elephants have been on the increase in over a decade.

With security having been restored and wildlife rebounding, Zakouma is now a coveted tourism destination to the benefit of adjacent communities whose livelihoods have improved considerably. Zakouma is one of the most inspirational and surprising conservation success stories to come out of Africa. Building on this success, African Parks assumed management of the Greater Zakouma Ecosystem in partnership with the Chadian Government in 2017, almost doubling our conservation footprint in the country.

Highlights

  • Zakouma was declared a national park in 1963 by Presidential Decree, giving it the highest form of protection available under the laws of Chad.
  • Within two years of taking over management, African parks entirely halted elephant poaching within the extended elephant range.
  • Today the elephant population of Zakouma is on the increase, with new-born calves being observed from mid-2013 onwards and the population now exceeds 500 individuals. 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.
  • Satellite collars have been fitted to elephant herds, allowing the park management team to monitor them and deploy field patrols accordingly.
  • Communities work with the park to ensure the protection of wildlife. By extending the park’s communication network to villages, the flow of information has been improved so that communities can notify park authorities of any suspicious activity or threats.
  • Zakouma is one of the biggest employers in the regions of Salamat and Guera and provides additional opportunities for local income generation through the local procurement of park and tourist camp supplies.
  • The community outreach visits arranged by the park ensure that about 5,000 Chadian children and villagers visit the park each year.
  • A number of new schools, called Elephant Schools, have been built in areas within the elephant migration zone and in 2016, 1,267 children received educations from Zakouma-supported schools.
  • The park’s Tinga Camp, Camp Nomade and Camp Salamat have seen an influx of local and international tourists, providing local employment and trade opportunities.