CHAD THE LATEST COUNTRY TO DESTROY ITS IVORY
Goz Djarat, Chad – Yesterday President Déby Itno lit the stockpile of 1.1 tons of confiscated ivory in this town at the entrance of the Zakouma National Park, the country’s premier national park. The ivory has been stockpiled in Chad over the past eight years and signifies Chad’s firm commitment to combating the elephant poaching that has decimated the region’s once thriving elephant population. Fifty years ago the Republic of Chad was teeming with 50 000 elephants; today the population is estimated to be around 1 500.
The burn was witnessed by a delegation of Chadian cabinet ministers, the African Parks team that manages Zakouma, representatives from other NGOs and the media and formed part of Zakouma National Park’s 50th anniversary event that also included the unveiling of a commemorative monument to the 23 guards slain on duty at Zakouma since 1998.
President Déby pledged support last week for a new Elephant Protection Initiative at the UK Government’s London Summit on the Illegal Wildlife Trade and confirmed a range of measures aimed at protecting his country’s elephants. Heads of State from Chad, Botswana, Ethiopia, Gabon and Tanzania all pledged support for the Elephant Protection Initiative, which means they will refrain from any trade in ivory products for a minimum of ten years. The implementing organisation, Stop Ivory announced it will make an initial $2 million available to support this pledge. Stop Ivory is supporting elephant range states to assess and ensure ivory stockpiles are removed from commercial use, strengthen legal frameworks and assist with funding for elephant production. The UK government also pledged $2 million in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.
President Déby said Chad had already initiated a National Elephant Protection Plan, which included the destruction of ivory stockpiles and the establishment of a National Elephant Monitoring Centre to track and respond to threats to the country’s elephants. The monitoring centre has been established and is being managed by African Parks under the auspices of the Chadian Ministry of Environment. African Parks has managed the country’s flagship protected area, Zakouma National Park, since late 2010 and is helping to develop Chad’s elephant protection plan. African Parks successfully halted the killing of elephants in Zakouma after a poaching onslaught between 2006 and 2010 slashed elephant numbers in the park from 4000 to just 450. Not a single elephant has been lost to poaching in Zakouma over the past two years.
The Chadian Government requested African Parks to undertake a survey of Chad’s remaining elephant populations in 2013 and eight free ranging populations were identified outside of Zakouma. Individuals in each of the eight herds have been satellite collared and the signals relayed real-time to the national control centre, which is manned 24 hours a day. A national unit of 350 guards is currently being trained and will be deployed to counteract specific threats to the country’s elephants. A national toll-free number has been set up to enable communities to report threats to elephants, even in remote rural areas.
In addition, 21 elephant calves were sighted in the park last December, confirmation of an increase in the population and a testimony to the success of the intensive anti-poaching initiatives implemented by African Parks at Zakouma.