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Paradise Regained – Parc National Zakouma Tchad


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Kitsafari

@inyathi no apologies needed. thank you so much for taking time to give more information and thanks for following and all the likes. 

It was wonderful and heartwarming to see the numbers of baby elephants since it suggests that the situation in Zakouma has calmed down enough to reduce stresses on the pachyderms. hearing them trumpet and play among themselves was a very good feeling. i agree that the patas monkeys are beautiful - and so feisty against the baboons! I however didn't realise how rare they are so i'm very fortunate to have such a clear and good sighting of them. 

 

I tried to have a closer look at the doves in another photo and although it is not very clear, the beaks are not red, so you are probably right and that they are black billed doves. 

 

Unfortunately, we didn't have the luck to see kudus in the park. would have been magnificent to see them ithere. 

 

 

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Kitsafari

Leon had mentioned that sightings of cape fox have been had around the HQ/Tinga area. So we headed into the dusk in search of the slippery fox.  And all that Leon said was true. Another point in favour of Tinga.....

 

I didn’t have many photos of the creatures that trod lightly in the night, but it shouldn’t mean we didn’t see anything. I do vaguely recall seeing some but decided against using my camera for photos or videos as the results were just blots of light and shadowy spots. But the last two nights were the most productive, perhaps because I wasn’t thinking about dinner as much, but mainly because I suddenly woke up to the fact that they were the LAST two nights.

 

Here are some samples of the night life in the park:

 

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an owl tries its luck...

 

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a delightful cape fox!

 

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an elusive serval

 

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a visit from a driver ant who got drunk in my butter.... 

 

 

 

 

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Pholidota

@kitsafari  Great night wildlife shots!  I believe the fox species is pale fox as cape fox is much more southerly.  The genet seems also to be a different species from East Africa.

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Kitsafari

@aholman oh lordy (new famous word!) how did I mix them up? and here I was thinking - I remembered not having seen this little fox before, but I've seen a cape fox in Tswalu so why did I think I've not seen this fox before?.... so, thanks much for correcting me and assuring me that I've not lost my mind, yet!

 

This is a blotched genet, different from the small spotted genet.  while the latter is found in eastern to southern africa as well as middle east and some parts of europe, the blotched genet is only found in Africa - and mostly in the west side  and living as far north as the Sudanian-Sahelian savannas. although they are said to be found in central namibia as well. 

 

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inyathi

@Kitsafari Wow fantastic views of the pale fox (Vulpes pallida oertzeni) I only saw them on my first visit and not quite as well as that. The Tinga/Zakouma HQ area does seem to be the one area of the park where you have a chance of seeing one, anyone who desperately wants to see this species is definitely going to have a better chance of doing so if they stay at Tinga, if you miss them on your first attempt it's not a major inconvenience to have to try again. On our last visit we tried after our flight over the park as we were driving back from the HQ to Rigueik but had no luck, to have to drive from Rigueik to Tinga several times specially to look for them would not be very convenient. I presume that they are exclusively nocturnal or nearly so, whereas the Cape fox (Vulpes chama) seems to reasonably active during the day at least I've seen them very well in the daytime. The pale is a good bit smaller so perhaps it's bit safer being out at night when daytime predators like hawks and eagles aren't around, I think though they mainly spend their days in their burrows to escape the ferocious daytime heat in this region of Africa. Of course many of the small rodents and invertebrates that they hunt are more active at night but they do also eat fruit which at the right time of year they can find day or night. I'm please you saw the fox because this species is entirely restricted to the Sahel Region so this one you certainly can't see in East Africa, looking at the map it should occur in Pendjari NP I'm not sure otherwise where you might see one, as much of the region where it's found isn't too friendly at the moment. 

 

@aholman The blotched or Central African large-spotted genet (Genetta maculata) despite its name is not actually confined to Central Africa it occurs from Nigeria all the way across to Eritrea and then everywhere south to central Namibia and north eastern South Africa. So it is found throughout East Africa, the name Central African is really to distinguish it from the Cape genet which also known as the Cape large spotted genet (Genetta tigrina), both species are often just referred to as large-spotted genets which can cause confusion but then this is another case of recent taxonomic splitting as they were considered all one species. The small-spotted or common genet (Genetta genetta) also occurs in Zakouma but I'm pretty sure all the ones I saw on my visits were blotched, I'm not conscious of having seen a common genet in the park. The a common would have many more and much smaller spots than this animal, Kingdon also states that the blotched does not have a pronounced dorsal crest, this animal does have a dark dorsal line but it doesn't form a noticeable crest. The common genet is absent from the rainforest regions of West Africa and the Congo Basin and also from the main part of the Sahara but otherwise occurs pretty much throughout Africa, sometime way back in the past animals from Morocco were introduced to Spain probably by the Moors and spread throughout Spain and Portugal and up into south central France. Interestingly this species has also been split even more recently, common genets found throughout Southern Africa up into Angola are now regarded as belonging to a separate species the South African small-spotted genet (Genetta felina), confusingly the range maps in the latest edition of Kingdon show considerable overlap between the two, with both species occurring throughout Zimbabwe, Botswana and eastern Namibia but I suspect this may not be correct. The blotched and the common are the only genet species found in Chad. 

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Kitsafari

@inyathi having read what you had described on the rarity of this pale fox, it makes me very glad that they were very visible to us and very accomodating. I said they because we saw 2 more the last night! 

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Kitsafari

Day seven: Rigueik Pans-Salamat River

 

The Lions of Camp Nomade

 

“He'll be coming and going" he had said. "One day you'll see him and another you won't. He doesn't like being tied down--and of course he has other countries to attend to. It's quite all right. He'll often drop in. Only you mustn't press him. He's wild, you know. Not like a tame lion.” 
 C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

 

I feared we had camped on the grounds of the Zakouma lions. One morning, while we were focused on the dancing of the queleas, three lions stepped out of the morning mist and calmly and majestically strode into the camp as if they owned it, which they probably did.

 

All eyes were on them, including those of a handful of buffaloes, scattered around the pans to graze on the fresh grass sparkling with the dew of the day. The cats showed no signs of wanting to hunt. Two of them strode between the two tents taken by Mrs and Mr T, and by Safaridude, while the third lagged behind, seemingly trying to look more menacing than the first two. A risk-averse buffalo cantered away, but others were more watchful of a potential hunt. But those fears were unfounded. The cats showed no interest and vanished among the tents.

 

 

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Kitsafari

There were other signs that the lions claimed the grounds we were sleeping on as their own; it seemed CN has camped on their favourite territory. While we were fly camping on the river bed with little to threaten us, the lions were hanging around Nomade. Kate told me she had to get the staff to accompany her back to her tent one night as the lions were close by.

 

Every night, a lion would be roaring its presence and on the night of a braai when Leon joined us for dinner, lions were roaring on either side of the camp. On the last night, I fell off to sleep lulled by the roars and with vague hopes of seeing them walk by my tent. The next morning, I learned of a huge ruckus at the other end of camp but I had slept through it. Seemed there was a mighty lion fight.

 

So on our last morning, it was only fitting that we went in search of the lion king. We had seen adult females, with sub adults and with cubs. Where were the pride males?

 

And there he was, lying under a bush looking rather forlorn and lonesome. He chuffed softly, as if calling for his coalition mate or his pride. None answered. He rose slowly and cautiously and it became apparent that he was hurt. He limped towards the pans, and walked slowly, stepping over the rocky pans, punctured by all footfalls that the antelopes and buffaloes printed as the muddy ground hardened. There was however no obvious injuries; perhaps it was a muscle pull. The male lion looked small compared to his distant cousins in the east African savannah, and his mane was sparse. With that limp, he looked less than a royal king of the world, but I had no doubt he would prove exactly that if anything threatened him. in the distance, he paused and laid down for a drink as the birds decided to keep him company. with his back to us, and with the saddle billed stork keeping by his side, he looked a forlorn figure. 


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Kitsafari

We lost him when he crossed into the other end of the pans.

 

We never found him again, but we found two other females that morning, each at different locations but all just as jittery.

 

Lioness 1: such a beautiful lady, i had to take quite a few shots of her. 

 

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she may be looking at an empty plain on this side, but on her other side was this: 

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Lioness 2: we had stopped at one of those crowded lovely pans and we were all focussing on the cranes around us. squack had taken to his binos and in the far distance at the treeline he saw a lioness dragging a baby hartebeest in her mouth, walking towards the trees and dogged by a herd of hartebeest which were joined by a handful of waterbucks. we joined those antelopes and found her by a bush with her kill stashed inside the bush. the others could see the kill, but i was as blind as ever and couldn't see a thing. we sat to watch her but she started to make soft calls. after a time, we decided to move on to give her more space. our vehicle was probably preventing her cubs to come forward.

 

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Edited by Kitsafari
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SafariChick

@Kitsafari great sightings of the night animals - the pale fox is so cute!  I loved the video of them all put together.  I had to laugh at your use of the 'now-famous word lordy' ha ha - even in Singapore it is already famous now?

 

and now just read the subsequent posts about the lions. How exciting that the lions just strolled through camp! The male does look a bit forlorn with only birds to keep him company.  Great sightings!

 

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Kitsafari

@safarichick I couldn't resist using "lordy"! it was very unexpected of Comey to use that word. LOL

 

 

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Kitsafari

It was our last day, and it seemed with the cats bidding us farewell, the animal kingdom came out on parade to satiate as much as they can our long, lingering looks. Perhaps, it is only right that the pictures tell of an ordinary day in the Parc Zakouma. Ordinary in its very extraordinariness - in the abundance of lives, in the sanguine beat of life, in the tranquil pace their footsteps trod, in the measured grazing of the short trodden grass, in the immense diversity of lives.

 

Part 1: AM drive at surrounding areas of Rigueik Pans 

 

camp nomade in the background

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Camp at the back

 

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madaboutcheetah

@kitsafari - enjoying the report.

 

Glad you found the Male Lion - so, is he fully grown? or this is as big as they get in these parts?  

 

Wow on the Tiang - just so many of them!

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Kitsafari
2 hours ago, madaboutcheetah said:

@kitsafari - enjoying the report.

 

Glad you found the Male Lion - so, is he fully grown? or this is as big as they get in these parts?  

 

Wow on the Tiang - just so many of them!

 

@madaboutcheetah   the male lion looks like a young adult but he's probably as fully grown as he can be. 

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Kitsafari

More antelopes and galloping giraffes and flying tiang from the morning drive:

 

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baby hartebeest

 

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Kitsafari

we had two special sightings - one of a pair of abysnnian rollers and another of a cold blood curdling type....

 

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we stopped for this beautiful roller, sitting all alone .....

 

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.... when another flew in and landed near it. the second had an insect in its beak and we thought this bird was courting the first one....

 

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"well, the insect is juicy... and she seems disinterested...

 

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...maybe i could woo her with this fat insect....

 

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or shall i not?

 

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ah well, he threw it into the air, and ate it (which I missed by a split second :wacko:

 

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I sat at the left of the back row with Mahamat sitting in front of me as safaridude had commandeered the front passenger seat. as we passed a bush, i could see a strange vine around it. Mahamat called up, squack reversed and I made a lightning switch to the right side of the vehicle. I was going to put as much distance as I could from that long wriggling snake in the bush - a cobra (I can't recall which cobra this was). so I've seen a black mamba, boomslang, rock python and now a cobra.  I did see a small snake at our chosen bush toilet, but i stayed away till it had slithered off. I'm terrified of snakes, and the less I see of them, the happier I will be. 

 

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Kitsafari

Part 2 : evening drive near Salamat River

(I"m determined to complete my TR today!) 

 

After seeing so much in the morning drive, our last game drive was less hectic. The buffaloes eased us into a dusty start. There were hordes of them on the pans and my camera couldn't begin to capture most of them in one shot. 

 

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then a very placid roan came by as we drove along a seemingly quiet stretch. we spent a long time with him as Squack tested his patience and tolerance. the awesome mythical antelope hardly bothered to glance  at us as he went about tasting different morsels of trees and bushes. 

 

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another pretty waterhole, followed by Salamat River scenes

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Kitsafari

Before we knew it, the sun was setting on our last day in Zakouma and the colours were brilliant and bright as if reassuring us that the park would stay strong and healthy for many many decades to come.

 

 

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Kitsafari

 

So I forgot this entertaining clip of the abssynian ground hornbill  :

 

 

 

 

Part 3: Night drive 

 

A surprise spotted cat, lots of white-tailed mongoose and black-tailed one as well, pale foxes (2 including one adorable curious one), and honey badger (woohooo!)

 

this elusive cat lived up to its name, squack located it a few times as it kept vanishing into the dense foliage. my photos were crap, and so was the filming, as the cat slinked away quickly each time. 

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black tailed mongoose (i thought I had taken pics of the white-tailed ones but I can't seem to find them so it looks like I dreamt I had press the button on the camera...)

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and what is better than a honey badger? two of them! 

 

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Kitsafari

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

 

Willam B Yeats,  The Lake Isle of Innisfree

 

And that's all folks.

 

Zakouma defied my expectations of what a normal national park would be. The remoteness of Zakouma all these years allowed the wildlife to be widely untouched, unmoved, unharassed as they've been for years, with the sad exception of the elephants. Now with the protection of AP and the government, the elephants are finally getting the peaceful reprieve within the park. 

 

I know I have a romantic view of the park. But in these times where humans are angry with the land given free, as they see it, to wildlife while they struggle to survive, or are frustrated that wildlife and natural parks yield no economic value for them, or that the population explosion have squeezed everyone into tighter and tighter and intolerable tiny spaces, these pockets of magical wildlife that have yet to know humankind become even more precious.

 

I hope I have somehow conveyed some sense of remoteness and accessible quiet beauty of Zakouma. My only wish and hope is that those who have read the report will desire to go to Zakouma, see the beauty of its inhabitants, and support AP’s efforts there. staying at tinga does all that too. 

 

A BIG thank you to all those who have followed this rambling TR which became rather personal as it went on. Much thanks to those who contributed in comments and feedback, and those encouraging words that lifted my spirits. Much appreciation to @twaffleand  @Sangeeta for their contributions and to @Galago for helping me id the birds, and much gratitude to @inyathi for filling the vital gaps of knowledge and also id-ing the birds.

 

A HUGE shout-out to @Safaridude, Mr and Mrs @twaffle, @Sangeeta  and Squack for their fabulous company, laughter, singing, lessons on life and flora and fauna. And thank you for tolerating my whiny hunger calls and blinkers that blinded me to the African wild cat and those big lions (how I managed to not see them for ages is beyond me) and for not feeding me to those cats and having the mother of all sightings as a result. Thank goodness you all were just too nice.

 

As I sit here at my computer, as I relived those moments of our journey, I can feel once again the wind on my face as the truck trundled along the routes with the antelopes milling around us. Sitting at the back row, I started to hum a tune, and took flight - winging with the pelicans, gliding with the cranes, and dancing on the pans with the antelopes.

 

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Galago

@Kitsafari  Thank you so much for a wonderful trip report. I have enjoyed it immensely and, although I was excited about visiting Zakouma, I'm now almost beside myself with impatience. Eight months to go - and counting! But that leaves time to study the field guides and to anticipate the tremendous boost to my bird lifelist that will undoubtedly happen as well as all the wonderful mammals. I'll also try not to think about snakes and flying with no doors! :rolleyes: Thank you again.

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@Kitsafari Your report has been an absolute delight, best thing I have read in a very long time. Thank you.

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michael-ibk

Just wonderful, Kit, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. That last drive was just beautiful, really love the two Rollers, and the Cobra is fascinating. And that night drive ... just wow! Really hope to see Pale Fox and Honey Badger myself. I was especially taken with those spellbinding landscape shots with masses of animals, such a unique setting, and I completely understand how you got your "romantic" notion of the park. I´m sure you were excellent company to the "gang", and I´m sure you will be this October - looking forward to that one!

 

And .... just what @ld1 said. :-)

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optig

@Kitsafari I'm particularly enthusiastic about going to Zakouma because you saw so much on your night drives. The pale foxes are particularly cute.

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Kitsafari
20 hours ago, Galago said:

@Kitsafari  Thank you so much for a wonderful trip report. I have enjoyed it immensely and, although I was excited about visiting Zakouma, I'm now almost beside myself with impatience. Eight months to go - and counting! But that leaves time to study the field guides and to anticipate the tremendous boost to my bird lifelist that will undoubtedly happen as well as all the wonderful mammals. I'll also try not to think about snakes and flying with no doors! :rolleyes: Thank you again.

 

@Galago I'm most pleased the TR was able to give you a flavour of what to expect in Zakouma. I'm rather jealous of you, now that I'm done reliving my time there and wish I was going again! maybe one day soon. You'll no doubt soak in the atmosphere from Gary's novel and I'll wait for your Big Year thread for 2018! and yes, don't think of the doorless flight..... 

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