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ZAKOUMA N.P. CHAD. 6-15TH FEBRUARY 2018.


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michael-ibk

Great birding post! Would love to get the full list via PM, please. Brown Eagles are always very tricky but this does not look like a Greater Spotted but rather a Tawny Eagle to me.

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PART ONE. THE BEGINNINGS.    I was fortunate enough to visit Zakouma N.P., Chad in early February of this year. As a wildlife destination it had rapidly moved up my 'wish list' after joining Safa

PART TWO.  THE KILL. Life in camp very much revolved around two game drives per day with some additional activities throughout the week which will be discussed in the appropriate section.These we

PART FOUR. THE BOVIDS OF ZAKOUMA From the moment we left the airstrip en-route to camp it was more than apparent that we were in a very wildlife rich environment, as the week flew by this view wa

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johnweir

Should have included this image in my previous post as it is a very good example of how some birds you may be familiar with from the south and east of Africa maybe slightly different in Zakouma.

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North African or Red-necked Ostrich. Not the best image but only saw a few and never really presented themselves for an image. This is a different subspecies to those ostrich normally seen on safari. Used to have a huge range but now only found in a few isolated pockets although successful reintroductions are taking place, for example southern Tunisia.

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@johnweir a great report. Your photo of the Black Crowned Cranes reminds me of one of those beautiful Japanese ink paintings or a very expensive wallpaper. It’s an exquisite picture. 

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pault

And yes, the ostriches are very red-necked. Otherwise I don't see much difference - size looks about the same. Are there more differences?

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Antee

Nice diversity!
I think Tiang is still a subspecies. But of Tsessebe and not Topi. 

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madaboutcheetah

Lovely report, Thank You @johnweir

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johnweir

PART SIX.  THE KORDOFAN GIRAFFE.

When I first became interested in visiting Zakouma N.P. I was obviously drawn by the incredible story of the elephant population being rescued from extirpation by African Parks, but was also intrigued by the fact that the park is still a stronghold for one of Africa's rarest subspecies of giraffe, The Kordofan Giraffe (Giraffe camelopardalis antiquorum), a subspecies of the Northern Giraffe.

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A typical Kordofan Giraffe.

A recent revision of giraffe taxonomy (which has generally been accepted), means that there are now 4 species and 5 subspecies. (One species and nine subspecies previously). Despite elimination from significant parts of its former range The Kordofan Giraffe is doing very well in Zakouma.

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In 2015 the total population of the subspecies was estimated at around 2,000 individuals, 934 of which were recorded from Zakouma by African Parks during an aerial survey in 2014. So 50% of the total can be found in the Zakouma eco-system.

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A slightly darker individual.

The image below was taken from ground level, on this occasion we approached on foot which was a very special experience and features a small herd located just south of Zakouma H.Q. Generally sightings were of herds of between 5 and 8 individuals, although I have seen images taken in Zakouma of much larger herds.

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I thought I would observe very few on my visit but was pleasantly surprised to see many on most days in herds of various sizes, they were always nervous and quickly moved away when approached in the vehicle, as demonstrated in the image below.

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It was sad to see a giraffe taken as a prey item by the lions (see THE KILL), but feel sure that the population has the capacity to more than cope with such setbacks.

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Two younger giraffe, the future of the species.

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An adult taken very close to Camp Nomade.

 

The Kordofan Giraffe sightings remain one of the highlights of the trip for me. The images were taken throughout the week in all locations and habitats with the exception of very exposed open savanna.

 

@michael-ibk , thank you for the help with some of my birding issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Kitsafari

The kordofan giraffes were special sightings.  So tall and regal. 

When you said "

In 2015 the total population of the subspecies was estimated at around 2,000 individuals, 934 of which were recorded from Zakouma by African Parks"

do you mean for all of chad?u

 

edited to say - is the total of about 2000 for all of chad?

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johnweir

PART SEVEN.  ELEPHANTS AND A FLIGHT OVER PARADISE.

The plight of Zakoma's elephants is well documented both here and elsewhere, from a significant population of 4,000+ the park saw this figure reduced by 95% during the period 2002-10, mainly at the hands of Sudanese poachers. Enter African Parks (2010), who since the original agreement was made with the Chadian government have worked miracles in the park, particularly with regard to the elephant population, this has undoubtedly had a very positive effect on the whole eco-system generally and resulted in a very healthy park with massive potential for the future. The impact AP have had on Zakouma cannot be understated, a wonderful success story and there can be little doubt that they have saved this very precious population of elephants from local extinction. A price has unfortunately been paid, in 2012 six rangers lost their lives at the hands of poachers whilst on active duty. The good news is that poaching is now well under control and the elephant population is starting to show a significant increase in numbers. (454 in 2010 to around 550 in 2017). The park staff located 1(one) calf in 2011, last year 85 calves were counted and from what I saw this year from the air, that figure will certainly be added to.

One of the highlights of a trip to Zakouma has to be a sighting of the elephants, from the ground this can apparently on occasions be difficult as they can be hard to locate and guides are clearly mindful of the trauma the herd has experienced in the past and that they need to be approached very carefully and from a distance. Therefore the AP flight(s) over the park to check on the herd(s) has usually ensured a sighting for clients/visitors. We were due to take a flight over the park on Saturday (10th Feb), at lunch on the Friday park staff visited camp to inform us that there was problem, due to a severe shortage of aviation fuel, only one fight would be possible on the Saturday, that meant only three out of our group of eight could enjoy this element of the trip. Understandably everyone was very disappointed, but it was agreed we would draw lots.The hat went round I opened my small ball of paper, two members of the group were already smiling, and in my hand was a smiley face, I would take the flight. I couldn't have been more happy if I had won the lottery (I'm not normally a very lucky sort of guy), but felt for the others, a great group who accepted the outcome with grace. 

We left for H.Q. the following day at 06.00, the camp manager drove us down, the rest of the group would do game drives and we would meet up back at camp around 10.00 as we were due to visit the village market later that day. On the drive down to H.Q. we saw an unusually large herd of Red-fronted Gazelle. Matthew (Camp Manager) told us that he had seen a Cheetah with a kill next to the road, the week before our arrival. (A very rare sighting). 

On arrival at H.Q. the historic, doorless, light aircraft we were due to use was visible on the airstrip but was going nowhere, it had developed a puncture. 

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The infamous park aircraft, with slow puncture clearly visible centre of image.

    

The plane was moved to a hanger and a repair was afforded which took around an hour, we re-located to the bird hide in front of the Park Manager's house to take some images, on arrival back at the plane the repair was virtually complete.

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Rob (Pilot), a great guy, responds to my question about the validity of my travel insurance during the flight, reply unprintable. His talk prior to take off, on surviving an emergency landing in the bush was also very reassuring.

 

So off we went, the flight lasted about 30 minutes, basically we flew south over Regueik, passing over our camp (see earlier image) and located a large herd of elephants and several smaller ones all quite close to each other. We circled around them and the surrounding countryside several times and then returned to H.Q. I sat in the back with another member of our group and one sat with the pilot, we had seat belts but the absence of doors made for an interesting sensation, sort of a combination of fear and freedom!  It was quite noisy but we were able to communicate via headsets. A flight over any area gives you a very different perspective and I was surprised at just how much standing water there still was about. Large buffalo herds were very common right from take off. Photography was not easy, hence the images are not brilliant. (Aircraft motion severe, all taken on auto).

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Buffalo crossing some standing water, even from the air the variety of buffalo colour is apparent.

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More Buffalo, taken in deep shadow. (not B/W).

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Regueik Pan, clearly showing a lot of standing water, the birds are Pelicans. It is hard to believe that this habitat is not that far from the Sahara Desert.

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First contact with the elephants, at least 3 very young calves visible. Rob located the elephants quite easily, on this occasion they were approximately 3 miles S.E of camp in a location which would have proved almost impossible to visit by road.

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The core group of the main herd.

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Another quite large group, notice several very young calves. No elephants were seen with anything other than very small tusks.

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Buffalo crossing an area of acacia scrub.

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Another reasonable sized group, I expected this would be my last sighting of the elephants on the trip, fortunately that was not to be the case. 

The elephants seen were basically in one large herd but this consisted of a large core group and several splinter groups which were quite distant from the main group. In the image above the elephants appeared anxious and as we left, the herd were starting to move as a group in a defensive circular fashion.

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A general view across Zakouma N.P.

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Two, what look like mature, Buffalo bulls stir up the mud.

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Just before landing, very close to H.Q. more Buffalo.

 

We arrived back at camp at 10.00 after an experience I will never forget. Clearly the elephants are in very safe hands, and we have the likes of AP's ' Mamba Fast Intervention Teams' to thank for that. The image below was taken with their permission the day before our flight whilst we were out on a drive, they were on a routine patrol, they were very friendly but have quite a presence and are certainly prepared to respond with force if necessary to any threat to the park's wildlife.

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The day after the flight (Sunday) we reported to H.Q. around midday for a tour of their facilities and a Q and A session, although a group of staff from H.Q. had visited camp and joined us for our evening meal the day before which was very interesting. Infiltration by poachers into the park is more often than not prevented by an early response to local community information. Local people take a great pride in the park and feel strongly that they do not want outsiders killing their wildlife, hence they tend to readily provide information to the park staff.

 

As we left H.Q. two male elephants were sighted near the Park Manager's house where they apparently go for a drink each day at the pond in front of his house, I am not sure if they are still watered with a hosepipe as they were in the past, they are probably the two elephants I photographed from the air when we first arrived.

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Male 1, probably the largest tusks we saw in Zakouma.

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Male 1, gets agitated.

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Male 2. If they could only talk what a tale they would tell.

 

On Monday (12th) we left camp early with the intention of taking a long route to the fly camp to enable us to explore as much of the park as possible. Shortly after leaving camp we became aware that a significant number of elephants were feeding near the track we were on and had become aware of our presence and were starting to move away from us . We sat in amazement as literally hundreds of elephants of all ages and sizes crossed the track behind our vehicle. The noise, the power, the dust, the speed it was pleasantly intimidating and yet another unique wildlife spectacular courtesy of Zakouma. The image below again doesn't do the event justice, perhaps moving images are the way forward.

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Once things had calmed as we were near the giraffe kill (see earlier posting) we decided to call in for a quick visit no sooner had we arrived than some stragglers from the elephant herd were seen approaching at speed, this time we were well positioned and the light was slightly better.

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Approaching elephants at speed.

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Slightly closer, one of my favourite elephant pictures. Really like the poor light and dust, very much as seen.

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Alongside our vehicle, slightly lightened, much prefer the one above.

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Vultures near the giraffe kill, elephants pass by.

 

So after the flight I was lucky enough to have one more wonderful sighting, of these majestic creatures. 

 

 

 

 

 

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johnweir

KORDOFAN GIRAFFE NUMBERS @Kitsafari, possibly slightly less than 2000 would be the total for the subspecies across it's entire range, of which Zakouma is a very important part. It's range includes some of shall we say the more hostile areas in Africa. (apart from s. Chad it includes CAR, n. Cameroon, n. DRC. and w. S.Sudan). AP's own aerial survey (2014) indicated 934 were found inside the park. Giraffe Conservation's Country Profile for Chad shows that at the same time in Chad only 11 individuals were located outside the park, 6 in the Binder Lere area and 5 in the Chari Baguirimi area. It is clear that if it wasn't for Zakouma this subspecies would be at very serious risk of extinction. Thanks for the interesting question. 

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Kitsafari

@johnweir thank goodness the Tchad govt had the foresight to appoint AP to manage zakouma and protect and preserve the species then. 

thank you for the information!

 

Love the elephant pictures  and the picture of the 2 buffalo bulls leaving a mud trail in the river. Interesting tidbit about their tusks - but i also wonder if that is because the males are mostly young bulls rather than the more mature bulls which were probably poached earlier? 

 

 

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SafariChick

@johnweir lovely elephant sightings! And yes, the bull elephants do still drink water from a hose at times by the park manager's house. Our group in March was fortunate to drive by the house when we were there and stop to see them and then participate in giving one of them water from the hose - a very special experience!  

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johnweir

PART EIGHT.  A VISIT TO A RURAL MARKET.

When I first saw the itinerary for the visit to Zakouma I was rather disappointed that we were spending a full half day visiting a market outside the park, this was based purely on my usual safari view of maximising wildlife viewing at every opportunity. In fact it turned out to be a wonderful experience and certainly added to my overall enjoyment of the trip. It also enhanced my understanding of just how significant AP's positive impact has been on the local community. During the trip this was our only real contact with Chadian people going about their daily business, other than a visit to a craft market in N'Djamena on our way home. I wish we had had more time to explore rural Chad our brief glimpse into a totally different world was fascinating. 

The visit to the village/market took place on the same day as the flight to observe the elephant herd(s), Saturday the 10th of February. We returned to camp around 10.00 had a quick drink and immediately set off for the village of KASH KASHA, which is situated outside the National Park. (I have not been able to find it marked on any available maps). We travelled north until we met the main track (road) that bisects the park, and then headed N.E. towards one of the main park gates at Goz-Djarat. This part of the journey took around one hour. En-route apart from lots of general game we saw a large troop of Patas Monkeys which we slowed down to follow for several hundred metres, it was the first time I had seen this species. At Goz-Djarat it was very interesting to see some of the community projects that AP have completed to support the local and wider communities, I was particularly impressed with the primary and secondary schools that have been built and would very much have liked to have had the opportunity to look around the schools when they were in session.

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A Mamba team member (AP's rapid response team, anti-poaching) spends a few moments talking with his friends. Goz-Djarat.

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Tomorrow's park rangers and Mamba team members?

 

Leaving the park we headed in a S.E. direction passing a group of nomads with their cattle, the road conditions were poor and it took around another hour to reach Kash Kasha.

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A typical temporary home of the nomadic pastoralists. Homes of this type of construction are also used on a more permanent basis.

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This was only a small fraction of the total herd. This type of countryside and areas with less woodland were typically observed during the drive. Once we left the park no wildlife was observed, with the exception of one sighting on the way back, this includes bird numbers which were very low. Kash Kasha  consisted of several permanent dwellings and quite a lot of temporary (nomadic) homes. Amazingly on our return we stopped at the local pharmacy which was housed in a very dilapidated building. However inside it was immaculate and was very well stocked. We were able to purchase several medicines for a sick member of staff back at camp. The market is held every Saturday in the village and attracts hundreds of people from the outlying areas who come to buy and sell local produce, the market was very well stocked with fruit, vegetables, spices, fresh meat, dried fish, hardware and clothing. A donkey and camel market was also being held adjacent to the main market.

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The donkey/camel market, which was very much a male dominated event.

 

We were told to leave our cameras in the vehicle, but I decided to take mine under my tee-shirt more for security reasons than anything. We asked at two stalls if it would be possible to take some images and were told no. I set my camera to fully automatic and occasionally pressed the shutter button without using the eyepiece and managed to get some general images of the market, which are not well composed but give a reasonable impression of the event. It could well be the way forward to improve my photography!

The following six images were taken in the market.

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The two images below are of salt and dried fish for sale. 

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We spent around an hour wandering about the market before returning to the vehicle and heading back to camp, it was very hot during the visit, some stalls were shaded but most were out in the open. The locals were very friendly, we were well received if not with a little curiosity and managed a few words with on or two about the produce on sale, using basic French language skills developed 45 years ago at high school.

On our return to camp our only wildlife sighting of the excursion was of two Sudan Oribi which ran at speed across the track about 100 metres in front of the vehicle 3km from the park gates.

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One of two Oribi, bottom left. (Image purely to record the sighting).This was our only sighting of this species during the week spent at Zakouma.

 

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This lady sat at the side of the road was watching her husband repair a puncture to a tyre on their motorcycle. We did offer to help.

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These were seen at the edge of a dried up pan, I am assuming they are fish traps?

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This very handsome young man was more than happy to pose for the camera.

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A typical permanent rural Chadian village of this region. 

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The park sign.

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The park entrance At Goz-Djarat, taken on our return.

 

We arrived back at camp just in time to start an evening / night drive after a thoroughly enjoyable visit and I am so glad we went, it added to what was rapidly developing into the complete safari experience.

 

ERRATUM TO PART FIVE.  Image 18 , should read, A Tawny Eagle.

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

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AfricIan

As one who has tended towards your original view that a trip to a "local market" just gets in the way of wildlife viewing, perhaps I might also undergo your damascene conversion @johnweir ;);).

Do you know why cameras were so frowned upon?  Was is simply to minimise the possibility of theft or was it something more fundamental? 

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Galago

@johnweir John, it's so good to read your report. Strange to see photos almost the same as mine, (only yours are much better), but not really surprising given we were in the same vehicle! I'm also enjoying your photos and descriptions of game drives that I missed when I was too sick to go out. Love the silhouetted Black-crowned Cranes in the dawn light. 

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michael-ibk

@Galago

 

Sorry to hear you were sick and had to miss game drives, hope you still had enough good days in Zakouma to enjoy it.

 

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johnweir

@Galago, apologises for the delay been away for a few days.

Glad you are enjoying the trip report it was very sad that you had to miss some of the activities through your severe illness. Your birding expertise was particularly respected by all and you did make a positive contribution to the success of the trip.

On photography I think that you probably took the best image whilst we were in Zakouma, from what I remember it was of two male lions fighting, it was a real beauty.

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Galago
On 11/04/2018 at 8:08 AM, michael-ibk said:

@Galago

 

Sorry to hear you were sick and had to miss game drives, hope you still had enough good days in Zakouma to enjoy it.

 

Thank you Michael. It was pretty bad (H3N2 aka Aussie flu which lasted a month) but it was so fortunate that we had a doctor in our group who was able to monitor me, otherwise it would've been exit via medivac. I'm so thankful no one in the group caught it. My birdlist suffered badly though so far fewer Lifers than I was hoping for. As @johnweir is showing in his TR, it's a wonderful place and I would love to go back - in tip top health next time! Are you going to write a report on your trip? I'd love to see your photos.

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Galago

@johnweir Thanks John, that's kind of you to say so. I'll put together a mini-report later to complement yours and I'll add in the lion interaction at the giraffe kill when you were on the plane-with-no-doors! Looking forward to reading some more!

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johnweir

PART NINE.  THE FLY-CAMPING EXPERIENCE.

As part of the Camp Nomade experience one or two nights can be spent fly camping further south in the park. Our group had been allocated one night  Monday 14th, we left camp at 06.00 as we were to take an extended route to the camp which was good as it gave us a broader experience of the park. The fly camp is usually located on the banks of the Salamat River and the exact location is variable. I believe the camp is set up for the season and staff from CN drive down by a more direct route than the one we took, as and when clients are visiting to prepare food etc. At the time of our visit the river was not flowing and consisted of several unconnected large and deep pools. During the wet season the flow must be incredibly strong as the concrete crossing close to Tinga Camp had been completely destroyed. We travelled south for several hours engaging with the herd of elephants (previously discussed) and crossed a very extensive acacia savanna, wildlife was plentiful and the most noticeable difference from Regueik was the reduction in Reedbuck numbers and the increase in Kob. We stopped for a drink around 10.00 and it was during this break that the Black-breasted Barbet were seen, lunch was taken around 13.00 on the banks of the Salamat in the S.E of the park, we had driven a considerable distance virtually to the southern park boundary before turning west to join the river. Over a light lunch we continued to debate the Waterbuck issue all still convinced those in Zakouma had a different appearance to those we had previously encountered in other parks.

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A typical section of the Salamat River, an isolated deep pool is clearly visible as is the possible height of the river which has exposed the tree roots all along the bank.

Before reaching camp we located yet another large flock of Pelicans and Storks and whilst we were taking images two lionesses appeared about 400 metres further up the river valley, try as we might we were unable to locate them .

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Just before we arrived at the fly-camp we were fortunate to engage with a routine anti-poaching patrol which had stopped for a meal, they were very happy to pose for some images with their horses. One thing that will stay with me forever is just how proud these wonderful people are of their role and what they do and have achieved.

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We arrived at camp at around 17.00, just as the light was starting to fade, the two images below are of the camp and it's location on the banks of a Crocodile infested lagoon. On arrival the Crocodiles were out on the banks but took to the water once it was dark and stayed in the pool catching fish all night. It was quite an experience listening to them fishing during the night. Although the tents are very close to the Crocodiles there have never been any concerns regarding safety. The dome tents were excellent and had a sleeping mat with some sheets and a lamp. Toilets and a shower were provided at the back of the site and were totally adequate, I found the whole experience wonderful, my first experience of fly-camping and I would certainly do it again. The food was as usual good and I would assume was prepared at CN and driven down to the camp site.

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The image below is of some of the camp and park staff who were with us at the fly-camp and looked after us so well.

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In  the morning after an early breakfast we went for a walk in the bush with our guide Tyrone and a Mambo (AP) escort, we possibly walked a couple of miles saw plenty of birds and several Kob and Bushbuck. We met our vehicle and driver north of the camp and headed back to CN taking the more direct route via Tinga Camp which I was anxious to see, for future reference.  Kob were very much still in evidence and a young lioness was spotted close to the track hidden in some undergrowth she did however move into a more favourable location .

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Male Kob.

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Two images of the young lioness.

 

Our route back to CN closely followed the Salamat River and it was becoming very apparent that the river was home to significant numbers of Nile Crocodiles. Infact I can't remember ever seeing such a concentration of large specimens before on my travels. A real hotspot was halfway between our fly camp and Tinga Camp with significant numbers seen on the river banks sunning themselves. I found their dens dug into the river banks very interesting and again was something I had not seen before. Pont de Tinga, at the back of the camp also appeared to be very well populated with Crocodiles.

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Two of the larger specimens seen.

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Typical scene on the river bank as we headed towards Tinga Camp. Interestingly in Philippe Dejace's book on Zakouma (2002), a survey highlights this exact region as having the highest concentration of Crocodiles on the river. 

 

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Young male Waterbuck at the river, Crocodile den sites can be seen on the opposite bank. (2nd from the right actually has a crocodile just showing).

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Another large specimen at Pont de Tinga.

Incidentally Tinga Camp, looked great. the dining area was very impressive and the food and accommodation is apparently good. (member PM).

We arrived back at camp around midday after a really enjoyable 24 hours, close to camp a family of Patas Monkeys were seen sheltering under a tree and a very large Nile Monitor was seen out in the open hunting.

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Galago

@johnweir 

Edited by Galago
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Galago

Lovely memories John and your croc photos are superb. There are a few things that stick in my mind about the fly camping excursion. I couldn't come on the long drive and arrived with Matthieu on a direct drive so arrived before you and had the camp to myself. The trees opposite were full of Red-throated Bee-eaters, one of the prettiest bee-eaters I've seen and a lifer for me. It was a sight to see!

When we turned in for the night I could see the stars through the mesh dome of the tent - such a treat. And I  tried very hard not to wake you all up with my coughing! But undoubtedly failed......

And next morning, when you all went on a walk, I wandered along the river (never been so close to crocs but they eat fish not Safaritalkers) and never have I seen such extraordinary numbers of egrets (Great, Intermediate and Little) and Hammerkops. It really was a magical place and I will always remember it.

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PART TEN. NIGHT DRIVES AND OTHER THINGS.

The night drive on the day we returned to CN (13/2) was to prove to be exceptional, with regard to the number of sightings of nocturnal mammals, all our night drives had proved productive but not on the scale experienced on our last night in Zakouma. I really enjoy night drives and usually try to select camps, locations that are able to offer this activity, at CN the night drives usually were a continuation of the late afternoon drive and began after a sundowner, they lasted until around 20.00, on this evening we returned to camp at 21.00, The Zakouma night drives were in my opinion 'proper' night drives and were not dictated to by meal times. (Obviously within reason).

Our sightings started on this drive with a Marsh Mongoose, which is not on the Zakouma mammal list but I am 99% sure as were others that the sighting was accurate. ( A PM from a member, on a later trip confirms a similar sighting in the same location). It is one of my regrets from the trip that I was not able to get more decent images during our night drives this being mainly due to either being out of meaningful range or poor light. I have however seen lots of fantastic images taken on night drives in Zakouma on this site, I now have another good excuse to return.

Our sightings for this particular evening (excl. resting bovids, giraffe etc.) were 14 Genet ( all Large-spotted, Small-spotted occur here also but none were recorded during this visit), 4 Civet, 5 African Wildcat, 2 Crested Porcupine, Leopard (large male, 5 years old, a huge specimen), Serval, Hyena (possibly Striped), 3 White-tailed Mongoose (all with white tails, melanistic form also seen during the visit), 5 Scrub Hares and 2 Honey Badger (mother and cub).If there is anywhere in Africa that can match this tally in one evening, please send me details via a PM. On our return to camp we had quick shower before a cold beer and a delayed evening meal, the other group's vehicle had become stuck in some deep mud so they got back even later. This seems the appropriate time to comment on the quality of guiding during the trip, Tyrone proved in all aspects to be a first rate guide, his knowledge and passion for the natural world is outstanding and he is always prepared to go the extra mile, literally, to secure high quality sightings. He was also a very pleasant and humorous person to spend a week in the bush with, I recommend him most highly.

A small selection of images taken during the week on night drives.

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A Wildcat kitten, one of two, we watched them playing together for quite a while, possibly about 3 months old, the mother was not sighted presumeably gone hunting.

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Juvenile Greyish Eagle-owl on the track. (open to correction?).

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Large Spotted Genet.

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This young Lioness (approx. 2 years old) turned up to join us for a sundowner, a calm retreat to the vehicle was in order.

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Two Crested Porcupine, just about visible in the dust, waddle along the track oblivious to our vehicle.

 

Three primate species are found in Zakouma N.P., the Olive Baboon, Patas Monkey and Tantalus Monkey. The Olive Baboon numbers appeared to be very high, they were found in significant numbers in every habitat visited. Everyone was commenting on just how high the numbers were compared to other parks they had visited, on another thread on this site it has been suggested that that the large Baboon numbers could be partly responsible for the high mortality rate of Lion cubs, judging by the numbers seen it is highly possible. Patas monkeys are relatively common in the park , this largely terrestrial, savanna loving monkey, has been described as the fastest runner amongst all primates, hence they were usually observed from a distance. The least seen was the Tantalus Monkey, we only saw two small groups for a very brief period of time, they appear very similar to the Vervet Monkey (closely related) with which many will be familiar, in Zakouma they are very shy and do not tend to pose for the camera, hence no images.

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Male Olive Baboon, it would easily have the capacity to kill a lion cub?

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Olive Baboons were found in significant numbers in all the areas we visited. This troop was seen close to H.Q. and consisted of around 30 individuals.

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Patas Monkey, taken from distance.

 

The following day the journey home began, after a wildlife experience like no other. Due to the Paris - N'Djamena flights operating only three times per week it necessitated an additional night at 'The Hilton' which was bit of a drag, but did enable us to visit the local craft market to buy some souvenirs. Arrival back in Scotland was something of a shock going from 35˚C to -4˚C and heavy snow in around 12 hours. Fortunately one of my neighbours was on hand to assist with access to my drive.

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During this visit to Chad 37 mammals were recorded (35 in the park,1 outside and 1 in N'Djamena) and 137 birds were recorded.

Mammals seen but not mentioned anywhere in the text: Slender, Egyptian and Banded Mongoose, Senegal Galago, Striped Ground Squirrel and an unidentified large rat like creature.

Mammals not seen during the visit: Pale Fox (most visitors are successful, another reason to return), Greater Kudu (occurs in small numbers), Cheetah (a rarely seen cat, just a handful of sightings per season, believed to be a different subspecies to those found further south) and Wild dogs (very rarely seen in the park, but do occur). 

 

 A few additional images.

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Abyssinian Roller.

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Nile Monitor Lizard.

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Long-crested Eagle.

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Yet another Nile Monitor Lizard, I am very partial to this group of lizards, several very large specimens were seen during the visit. Zakouma really is home to some big reptiles. We also recorded two very large Black-necked Spitting Cobra. ( 2metres +).

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Final image, Black Crowned Cranes, surely Zakouma's most iconic bird.

 

I would like to think I would return sometime in the future but realise it is probably unlikely, it would be great to seen the soon to be reintroduced Rhinoceros in the park and doing well. However I fully realise I have been extremely fortunate to have visited at all. The Camp Nomade option is rapidly becoming far too expensive, 2019 prices are significantly higher than I paid. I would certainly stay at Tinga Lodge, I liked the look of it very much, but Tinga is is not entirely what you would refer to as cheap option either. If I was younger I would certainly consider the trips currently being offered by two U.K. based operators which drive to Zakouma from the capital with an overnight camp en-route, but they only stay in Zakouma for 3 or 4 nights which in my opinion is not long enough, the drive out and back would I am sure be fascinating.

 

When I first became interested in Zakouma N. P. five years ago the only book I could initially find on the area was an old copy of Lonely Planet. Central Africa. 1994.

The following is an extract with slight editing from that book:

ZAKOUMA NATIONAL PARK.

'No game park in Africa has been more ravished by poachers than Zakouma, it was once noted for its vast herds of elephants, buffalo, rhinos, giraffe and many species of antelope. Starting in the early 1970's, poaching became uncontrolled and the wildlife virtually extinguished. The government reportedly has plans to begin protecting the park and reopen it to tourists, but for sure there won't be many animals to see for a long time to come'.

 

How things can change in a positive way in a relatively short period of time, given a strength of purpose, financial support and strong leadership and management.

 

Finally a big thank you to all at African Parks what you have achieved is to say the least a miracle. Tyrone and Doug I hope to meet you both again in the near future in your respective strongholds. A special thank you goes to all my fellow travellers whose contributions made this a trip of a lifetime, I hope we meet again.  

 

 

   

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21 minutes ago, johnweir said:

I hope we meet again.

 

Around the campfire in the African wilderness... Thanks John for a great report.

 

Matt

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