Newsweek

Deadly Forces Sabotaging Elephant Protection in Chad

In less than a decade, Janjaweed poachers on horseback reduced the Zakouma National Park’s herd from 4,000 to 400.
Group of African Elephants (Loxodonta africana). Silhouettes. Masai Mara game reserve. Kenya.
HOR_Poaching_01_924809216 Source: Godong/UIG/Getty

When Rian and Lorna Labuschagne arrived in Chad’s Zakouma National Park in early 2011, experts had written off the elephants as doomed. A steep rise in the demand for ivory had led to a drop in elephant populations throughout Africa, including Zakouma, home to one of the largest herds on the continent. In less than a decade, Janjaweed poachers on horseback reduced the park’s herd from 4,000 to 400; it seemed just a matter of time before the rest of the animals were killed too.

The Labuschagnes, a South African couple who have worked in conservation their entire lives, had been brought in by African Parks, a nonprofit organization, with the support of Chad’s government to rehabilitate the park. The couple quickly overhauled security, strengthened ties with local communities and required staff to stay on location during the difficult rainy season, when poachers tend to

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