Photo by @stevewinterphoto | I just returned from @Zakouma_National_Park in Chad, @africanparksnetwork, one of the most amazing ecosystems on the planet – I have been to so many places throughout my career @natgeo – the amazing abundance of life found here is off the charts. Zakouma is just one of 15 parks managed by conservation NGO African Parks (@africanparksnetwork). If you want to see wild plains teeming with lions, leopards, herds of elephants, giraffe, and now rhinos (they just reintroduced black rhinos after a 50-year absence) and no tourists - go to Zakouma - check out the lodges there and in the other parks the manage in 8 other countries via their website. Tourism revenue goes back to the parks they manage and important community projects like education, healthcare and improved livelihoods.
What is happening in Zakouma is one of the most hopeful stories in conservation. The park was once ravaged by poaching and insecurity. More than 4,000 elephants, which was 95% of the population, were slaughtered between 2002 to 2010 for the sale of their ivory – and poachers wreaked havoc on both the wildlife and people who lived there. By 2010, only 450 elephants remained. That same year, @africanparksnetwork signed a long-term agreement with the government of Chad to fully manage Zakouma and change the trajectory of the park. They built a ranger team and implemented effective law enforcement measures and community networks, and today poaching has been practically eliminated. The elephant population is finally on the rise for the first time in a decade. Elephants have surpassed 550 individuals, and not one has been lost to poaching since January 2016. Last year @africanparksnetwork counted 81 elephant calves under the age of three years old; in 2011 they counted one. Without the support of local communities this would not work. The park is the largest employer in the region; thousands of people are getting an education and healthcare, and decency and civility, along with life, have found their back to this once forgotten place. To learn more about Zakouma and other truly hopeful conservation efforts happening across Africa, please follow @africanparksnetwork