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  • Writer's pictureKyle de Nobrega

Conservation Gold Child - Zakouma National Park

Zakouma National Park has made a significant impact within the realm of deep, immersive and bespoke safari travel over the last few years. Less than a decade ago, a wildlife safari to Chad was an unthinkable proposition. Today, a safari to this unknown country and its dusty hidden gems ranks among the best on Earth.

However, this good news story has not come easily. Zakouma has emerged from a depth borderline extinction.

Signatures of Zakouma

Within the few extremely fragile years that pushed the park towards disappearing in the late 2000's, Zakouma underwent one of the most significant and orchestrated Elephant poaching crisis' in the history of our species. 4500 Elephants desiccated into the Sahelian nutrient pool in the 4 years preceding the take over by African Parks. By 2010, 450 were left. The Elephants unsurprisingly become the yard stick of failed conservation and in years to come, the tool from which conservation success was measured.

By a large stroke of miracle, African Parks, a conservation organization with a history of impressive park management across the toughest landscapes in Africa, assumed management of Zakouma in 2010. The years that followed formed the foundation of one of the greatest conservation success stories of our time. Today, the wildlife population growth of almost all species is so apparent that the increase of wildlife numbers is visible each year. Within their tenure, the Central African Buffalo population has doubled, numbering around 16 000 today.

Dry, dusty, hot and abundant - elements of Zakouma

Recently, I returned to Camp Nomade in Zakouma for about my 10th visit to this extraordinary National Park.

What set this year apart from every other visit was the apparent population growth of both Kordofan Giraffe and Central African Savanna Buffalo. The evident increase is a direct result of the exceptional work carried out by African Parks and in years to come, Zakouma will continue on its trajectory in becoming a 'reservoir' for Sahelian wildlife from which other parks in the region can benefit. This year alone, Zakouma translocated 1000 Buffalo to the neighboring Siniaka Minia Faunal Reserve, an undertaking that took 30 days, thousands of kilometers and extraordinary coordination to complete.

Scenes from Camp Nomade

An equally important and inescapable component to a Zakouma safari is the unusual sacrifice one has to make in return for the exhibition of abundant wildlife. Midday temperatures soar in the mid 40's (C) and little respite is available to cool off. Sun or shade, the camp is hot and the effect of a cool bucket shower wanes after 5 minutes. Roads can be long and dusty, and the distances between areas of interest long and bumpy.

The harsh climate and generally challenging dry season environment of Zakouma is enduring for the traveler, creating a sense of having to earn and work for the rewards - which are plenty!

The story of Zakouma has become a benchmark for what is possible. The visionary blend of conservation and tourism shines light on the future of frontier travel and inspires an approach for full circle travel.

I look forward to the years to follow, guiding and sharing with like minded travelers Africa's 'Conservation Gold Child'.

Merci - Shukran - Thank you

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