Chad unveils Elephant Protection Plan in NYC, 4 questions answered
In this brief interview with the International Fund for Animal Welfare Director for France and Francophone Africa, Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, IFAW Director for International Law and Policy Paul Todd updates us on the situation in Chad by way of four questions with Céline. --ED
PT: Elephants in Chad have been hit hard by poachers in recent years, particularly in Zakouma National Park. What is the situation on the ground currently in Chad for elephants?
CSB: It’s difficult to know for sure. At the moment there is an area where a lot of elephants have congregated, but they are outside of any protected areas.
The government has deployed some soldiers there to provide some protection and watch over the elephants, so at least there is some monitoring and they are secure for now.
Zakouma National Park is also under control because APN [Africa Parks Network] is working there. But, as we’ve seen before, the situation can change quickly.
PT: What do we know about the poachers? Are the local, or from other countries?
CSB: It really depends on the period of poaching and the area. We do know that the most recent massacre of elephant was carried out by Sudanese poachers affiliated with janjaweed groups, but earlier incidents have been mostly carried out by Chadian poachers.
Generally, we think that it is a mix of Sudanese and Chadian poachers, but we need to know more about who these people are and how they operate. We also need more information about who supports them and the larger ivory trafficking networks that they work with inside and outside the country.
PT: IFAW has previously called on Chad, Cameroon, CAR, and other governments to work together to stop the seasonal poaching across Central Africa. What has Chad done in response, and what still needs to happen in order to secure elephants there?
CSB: The Chadian government has really stepped up its efforts and President Idriss Deby Itno is taking a leadership role in Central Africa. Recently, the government announced a zero tolerance policy on poaching and wildlife trafficking, and the government has taken action to hunt down the poachers.
Hopefully this increased political will mean increased resources and capacity on the ground. We still need to see changes to take root more completely in places like Sena Oura National Park, on the border with Cameroon, and others where the elephants live.
Rangers in those places need more support and equipment. Also, last year the governments of Chad, Cameroon, and CAR [Central African Republic] met and drafted an MOU that would allow for transnational anti-poaching operations, but the MOU still hasn’t been signed and implemented.
They need to take the next step because mixed patrols that can move from one country to another are the only way to chase the poachers down and stop them from killing elephants.
PT: Today President Idriss Deby Itno is going to announce a new National Elephant Protection Plan in New York. Why is this important, and what can people around the world do to help?
CSB: People from all over the world need to know what is happening to elephants and other animals in Chad and throughout Central Africa, and so making this announcement at the UN is a good thing. It’s impossible to know where the ivory from elephants killed in Chad will end up, so people should never buy ivory, no matter where they live.
Most of all, the governments of Chad and other countries need increased capacity and support to stop the poaching and ivory trafficking, and that’s where IFAW’s supporters can help. We help to provide this capacity in Chad and other places, but we can’t do it without their continued generous support for our work.