Effective Protection for Wild African Elephants

25. January 2020

According to an article  by David Qualmen in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC of November 12, 2019, wildlife conservation is possible even in African countries where elephants have been reduced to none-sustainable levels by poaching and war.

In search of solutions for devastated national parks, 10 African countries have turned to AFRICAN PARKS (AP), a private organization successfully restoring and running 16 national parks. AP was founded by a small group of conservationists passionate about stopping the rapid decline of African wildlife. They now successfully manage more than 40,000  square miles.

Forest Elephant in the Congo basin. Photo credit: Michael Varga / shutterstock

AP agrees to rehabilitate parks, restore wildlife, and support surrounding communities, provided the governments who own the parks give AP complete control over the parks’ management. AP bring outside funding, efficient business practices and rigorous law enforcements to Africa’s most troubled wildlife areas. Work at a troubled park usually begins by implementing well-armed security for the protection of wildlife and nearby human communities who maybe subjected to rape, pillage and plunder by armies and independent militias often using the parks for coverage and the poached wildlife for funding their missions. AP makes sure that the surrounding communities understand that a well managed park brings stability, safety and security to them. Once a solid base of law enforcement infrastructure has been built up, AP can move to community development for local tourism and ecological research. A central control room with daily meetings starting a 6:00 am every morning evaluates fresh intelligence such as illegal fishing camps, a gunshot or a hundred armed horseman galloping towards a nearby town. Rangers are deployed accordingly. Sources of such information are reconnaissance overflights, food patrols, GPS colors on elephants and  handheld radios placed with trusted individuals in villages around the park. Wounded rangers are evacuated by helicopter. Data is collected twice, a day. There is even a “phantom” team of rangers in th park. They are so secretive that even the radio managers do not know their location. Only the park manager and his assistant have knowledge of this team’s whereabout.

Elephant calves skimming water to drink with mother. Photo credit: Thomas Close / shutterstock

Zakouma National Park in southeastern Chad lost 4,000 elephants to poachers between 2002 and 2010. Since AP took over the management of the park in 2010, only 25 elephants were lost between 210 and 2018. The elephants of Zakouma, after decades of stress and terror have resumed breeding. The elephant population of 400 now includes  150 calves. In spite of murderous attacks on rangers, AP continues to manage and rehabilitate Zakouma National Park.

Another national park with different problems is Garamba National Park in the northeastern corner fo the Democratic Republic of the Congo. AP is managing this park in partnership with ICCN, Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature. Garamba’s location, sharing 260 kilometers of border with Sudan, plus Uganda and the Central African Republic being close by, has made Garamba the battleground for rebel armies and other dangerous interlopers for more than two decades. Garamba  has received help from NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, but boots-on-the ground patrolling is still the most important enforcement weapon. Military training  is essential to transform  rangers into a disciplined and motivated fighting force. In spite of heavy initial losses of life, AP is not abandoning the park. The first successes are there in that elephants begin to understand that they are being protected. They often  wander casually into the ranger’s camp for a drink.  Elephants subjected to heavy poaching are not that trusting.

African forest elephants in the Congo Basin. Photo credit: Sergey Uryadrikov /shutterstock

AP’s approach to success is based on assuming full management authority while trying to work with all conflicting parties for the benefit of wildlife and local people. They are also working hard  to arrange for advanced project training for young black Africans passionate about the conservation of their wildlife. Ultimately, conservation in Africa needs to be managed by Africans.

For more details read the National Geographic article by clicking on the link below: