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Beyond the Red List: Rising From the Ashes in the Ouadi-Rimé Ouadi-Achim Game Reserve, Tchad

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Sangeeta
Posted (edited)

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IUCN Classifications 

https://www.iucn.org/resources/conservation-tools/iucn-red-list-threatened-species

 

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Ouadi-Rimé Ouadi-Achim Game Reserve

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This trip report is dedicated to @inyathi – as a thank you for all the wonderfully-researched information he has added over the years to this forum. This story and was first inspired by something he wrote here.

 

It was in Rob’s TR of October 2015 that I first heard about Ouadi-Rimé Ouadi-Achim Game. At the time, ST was all abuzz with the very first trips that members were making into Zakouma, but I remember being fascinated, even then, to learn about the incredible wildlife that existed or had existed in Tchad in the not-so-distant past. In fact, his very interesting description of the scimitar-horned oryx reintroduction project was the first I had heard that such a species existed at all! So for all of you who missed it, here it is… Post #295 of his epic Zakouma report: https://www.safaritalk.net/topic/14421-zakouma-2015-returning-to-wildest-africa-in-style/page/12/

 

Thanks also to @jeremie for the links he added about the project. I have been following this project on and off since, and then, in December 2019, sharp-eyed Safaritalkers picked up a story from the Sahara Conservation Fund about the recent addax release into the reserve, including our own eagle-eyed @Kitsafari: https://www.safaritalk.net/topic/20470-addax-another-good-reason-to-visit-chad/?tab=comments#comment-293071...

 

Scimitar-horned oryx AND addax? Surely you jest? Surely not? Surely yes! :D And there you go, before you could say addax, we were off to the races!

 

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Scimitar-horned oryx

 

 

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Addax

 

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Dama Gazelle

 

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Dorcas Gazelle

 

 

Ouadi-Rimé and What’s your Zodiac Sign?

 

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I am a Cancerian, and although I don’t think I fit the “homebody” description of most Cancerians, it is true that once I get my crab-claws into an idea, it’s usually a “do or die doing it” proposition for me. OROA was one of those ideas. Once it had percolated down into my imagination, I could not stop myself from looking at maps, calculating distances, and wondering how we could possibly do this on our next trip to Tchad.

 

As it turned out, I was already slated to accompany a @Chalo Africa group to the Ennedi Massif in February 2020.  Although OROA was not on our original itinerary, surely, surely, surely we could sneak in a little detour for these rarest of rare antelopes? Not to mention that we had fellow Safaritalker Dave (of the Gabon mandrill fame) with us in Ennedi, which meant that we even had our own professional photographer with us, and what a shame it would have been not to put him to work properly? :D But our visit to the reserve was touch and go until the very last moment. Apart from a severe time crunch, we also had to deal with all kinds of other shifting plans & logistics – most importantly, our domestic flights were cancelled by Tchadia Airlines days before our scheduled departure. It all looked bleak and unlikely, and the Cancerian crab was almost ready to let go of the dream, but then the safari Gods decided to smile down upon us and here we are…

 

Thank you, Dave, for allowing me to share your pictures in this TR, and thanks so much to the 3 ladies who were also with us on this trip. If it hadn’t been for your good cheer and willingness to add a 700-km detour to an already impossibly tight schedule, there would have been no way for us to have visited Ennedi, Ounianga AND Ouadi-Rimé in the very few days we had at our disposal. All of you ROCK.

 

 

Edited by Sangeeta
Grammar & typos!

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Sangeeta
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The Ouadi-Rimé Ouadi-Achim Game Reserve (OROA)

 

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Map credit to the Sahara Conservation Fund

 

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This massive 78,000 sq. km reserve game reserve was established in 1969. It is located in north-central Tchad and represents one of the largest protected areas in all of Africa. At the time of its creation, the reserve was home to large numbers of oryx, addax, gazelles, and a variety of other species, including Sudan cheetah and North African ostrich. However, because of its location smack dab in the middle of the country, the reserve was never a national park and always lay on the path of the transhumant highway used by pastoralists on their annual transborder migrations through the Sahelo-Sahara region.

 

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Ranger Patrol

 

During the early 1970s, good rainfall led to increased numbers of all wildlife species at Ouadi-Rimé, but by 1978, the reserve had been ravaged by a dual disaster: poor rainfall led to the digging of deep wells and livestock grazing in areas that had been previously only used by wildlife for dry season grazing; and the Libya-Tchad war broke out (and lasted until 1987). This brought an influx of arms into the area as well as a complete breakdown of the security situation, which in turn led to illegal hunting and poaching, until the largest mammals of the reserve had been extirpated.

 

All these desert tank images credited to Dave.

 

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This below is a detailed report by the Sahara Conservation Fund and well worth a read to understand the reserve, its unique challenges and its even more unique opportunities... If you can scroll down and read their mammal numbers in the early 1970s, it is shocking to see how much has been lost.

 

Ouadi Rimé Land Use Report

 

 

Edited by Sangeeta
Grammar & typos!

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Sangeeta
Posted (edited)

Scimitar-horned Oryx - Oryx Dammah

 

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By the 1970s, Ouadi-Rimé Ouadi-Achim in Tchad was effectively the last major stronghold of this species in the wild, with more than 95% of all wild oryx living in OROA. When these were decimated in the 1980s, they were re-classified by IUCN in 2000 as having become Extinct in the Wild (EW).

 

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The following link provides a good overview of the reintroduction project:

https://www.zsl.org/conservation/regions/africa/reintroducing-scimitar-horned-oryx-to-chad

 

Here’s a summary of the document (I am copying and pasting to make it easier):

 

Between 2009 and 2013, ZSL worked closely with the SCF and government partners on the Pan Sahara Wildlife Survey to collect updated information on the status of wildlife and land use in several regions where oryx were once found. The Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve in central Chad emerged as the place with the highest potential for a successful reintroduction after surveys revealed that the Reserve, which supports large numbers of nomadic pastoralists and their livestock, still holds the world’s largest remaining dorcas gazelle population as well as healthy populations of bustards and most notably, a small population of the critically endangered dama gazelle.

Research also showed that despite increased livestock in the area and the oryx no longer existing in the wild, there was sufficient suitable habitat available to provide the species’ expected requirements.

 

A workshop held in N’Djamena, Chad in 2012 attended by a range of key stakeholders including local livestock association leaders, senior government officials and international experts, secured strong support for the rehabilitation of the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Reserve and the reintroduction of scimitar-horned oryx, including support from the President of Chad.  

The programme’s ambitious goal is to build a self-sustaining population of 500 wild oryx in Chad over the next five years. ZSL’s role in this will be to oversee post-release monitoring in the field alongside a Chadian team, focusing on oryx behaviour and most importantly of all, recording the first cases of courtship behaviour and detecting and reporting on the arrival of wild-born oryx.” 

 

Starting in 2016, several oryx releases have already taken place, and a good population of these beautiful antelopes are now wild, free and thriving in Tchad.

 

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A wild future for some wild-born oryx calves

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Edited by Sangeeta

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Sangeeta
Posted (edited)

Addax -  Addax Nasomasculatus

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If we are sticklers for protocol, then the addax is not yet Extinct in the Wild. Or at least it was not, when an extensive 700-km ground search (which included the use of infrared cameras) and a 3200- km aerial survey was conducted by the IUCN in the Termit & Tin Toumma Reserve of Niger in 2016 (where 200 wild-ranging addax had been counted in 2010). The 2016 survey revealed three (yes, 3) animals “huddled together in a very nervous group” and they constituted possibly the last addax ‘herd’ in the wild.

 

If anything, this area of Niger has suffered even more from wars, terrorism, poaching and hunting than has Tchad. In addition to the spillover from the Libya-Chad war, and the Islamic terrorist groups operating in this region, Niger’s Termit & Tin Toumma area’s significant oil resources have been placed in the hands of the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), so (at the risk of sounding like a bigot) why am I not at all surprised to hear that 200 animals have been reduced to 3?  I can’t think of a bigger scourge to wildlife than the Chinese appetite for anything that moves.

 

Rant over :angry:

 

There are scimitar-horned oryx and addax living now in semi-captivity in Tunisia and Morocco, but OROA’s success with the oryx presumably led to it being selected for the addax reintroduction project too. You can read about the project here:

https://saharaconservation.org/addax/

 

We were privileged to visit the Base Camp and nothing was too much trouble for the Project Manager and the rangers – they were so proud to be associated with the project and to show us ‘their addax’. When we visited, there were 15 addax that had been released from the boma to the main reserve (we saw 11 of the 15, a group of 1 male and 3 females had taken off for greener pastures). The following day, the project was expecting their second group of animals (darn, we missed them by a day.) The Sahara Conservation Fund is doing fantastic work on the ground with its partners, and with the cooperation of the local councils.

 

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Again, a variety of organizations, including zoos, have cooperated to make this project and here’s a shout-out to one of them - the St. Louis Zoo. :)

 

https://www.stlzoo.org/about/contact/pressroom/pressreleases/reintroduction-efforts-with-critically-endangered-addax-antelope-in-chad

 

The antelopes, with their light coloration, distinct face markings and kudu-like horns are stunning. By the time we got to them, it was the middle of the afternoon and very flat and harsh light, but still, you get the idea :) 

 

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Edited by Sangeeta
Grammar & typos!

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Sangeeta
Posted (edited)

Dama Gazelle – Nanger Dama

 

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There are roughly 100 dama gazelles left in the wild, and these are now found in Tchad and Niger. They previously ranged from Sudan (Darfur) to Chad to Niger, but no more. Of these precious 100, 40 wild dama gazelles can be found in Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve. We saw 4 captive dama in a boma – 3 females and 1 male, and here is their story…

 

“For years, the dama gazelle has been of great concern to the international conservation community. This beautiful, uniquely adapted but also heavily poached species of the Sahel has suffered a long decline and now stands at the brink of extinction. Despite the risks and extreme rarity of the species, the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF) mobilized a team of national and international experts in late January 2020, to rescue a few of the remotest and least protected dama gazelles in the wild. Though only comprising four individuals, the rescued gazelles are genetically some of the most diverse known to science. With captive-breeding as an essential element, it is hoped to turn the tide of extinction for this most graceful of species.”

 

https://saharaconservation.org/saving-the-last-critically-endangered-dama-gazelles/

 

These 4 gazelles were captured in January 2020 and relocated to OROA to start a (wild) captive breeding program here. Although there are zoo and ranch populations of these gazelles in many parts of the world, we were told that the captive breeding population does not have the genetic diversity to prevent inbreeding problems, and so this is a last-ditch effort to improve their wild numbers. The 4 gazelles we saw form the most genetically diverse specimens of this species in the world.

 

The ladies were in the smaller boma, but the male had jumped the fence (we needed a ladder to peek into the boma, so it must have been at least 10-12 feet high!) and was in the larger holding boma outside, and not in the mood to pose for pictures :)

 

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Les Dames Dama :) 

 

Perhaps someone more knowledgeable can tell us? – does this 100 count (i.e. all remaining wild dama) include all 3 sub-species? Apparently, there are 3 subspecies of Nanger Dama: N. dama ruficollis, N. dama dama, and N. dama mhorr?  

 

The Smithsonian exhibits the ruficollis, which is definitely lighter than the ones we saw.

https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/dama-gazelle

 

Much luck to the OROA Dama project – these were some of the most beautiful gazelles I have seen - long may they prosper!

Edited by Sangeeta
Grammar & typos!

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Sangeeta
Posted (edited)

Dorcas Gazelle – Gazella Dorcas

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We did see several small herds of these graceful gazelles, including a new born. The animals were definitely more relaxed inside the reserve than whenever we managed to spot them outside - in and around Ennedi. They are hunted locally – we saw horns for sale more than once – and very skittish as a result. They used to be classified as Vulnerable not too long ago, but have been moved to Endangered recently.

 

Some more images of this beautiful gazelle for your viewing pleasure:

 

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Dorcas gazelles are found in north Africa -Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya – as well as Chad, Somalia, Ethiopia and the Middle East – Israel and Egypt. Hopefully, it stays that way.

 

Edited by Sangeeta

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North African (Barbary) Ostrich – Struthio Camelus Camelus

 

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Although the Common Ostrich (Struthio Camelus) are technically of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, I cannot find a separate classification for the North African Ostrich on the IUCN list (perhaps someone can help?). It appears that they have been put into the same basket as the more common blue & black necked ostrich, but based on the available information, this largest of the 4 extant sub-species of ostrich, now lives in a considerably reduced range, and its numbers are diminishing rapidly. IUCN – please reclassify!

 

As we were driving into OROA, we met a vehicle from African Parks that was headed out from the reserve. Although we were not sure what an AP vehicle was doing there, we were sure they were up to something good :) And sure enough – it turns out AP have been ferrying North African ostrich chicks from Zakouma (where they are being predated upon in large numbers) to Ouadi Rimé, where SCF have launched an ostrich nursery, with a plan to introduce them into the reserve as they mature.

 

Their story is here:

https://saharaconservation.org/north-african-ostrich/

http://aviansag.org/Newsletters/Ratite_TAG/Ostrich-report_01-2017VF_light.pdf

 

The ostrich chicks were very shy and easily disturbed so we did not stick around for pictures, but here are 3 pictures that I have pinched from the SCF Facebook page – these were not taken by any if us and photo credits for these go to the Sahara Conservation Fund.

 

 

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Babies in a cooler box! :D

 

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I’ll stop here, although we did see a poor little fennec (he was very sick and lying beside the track at OROA), as well as Ruppel’s Griffon vultures & chicks. With some more time and some luck, it may be possible to see striped hyena and other nocturnals here as well.

 

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Edited by Sangeeta
Grammar & typos!

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Sangeeta
Posted (edited)

Logistics

 

Well, of you look at a map of OROA, it really does look like you could stop here quite easily on your way to Ennedi, doesn’t it?

 

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OROA is essentially that big blank triangle above the main highway connecting N’Djamena to Abéché, so I had assumed that we could surely loop off at some point along the main highway and access the reserve quite easily. I was wrong. On this trip, we had gone to Ennedi first, then on to the lakes at Ounianga, and then on our way back, came down to Arada, and then to Biltine, and from there went off-track for a few hours before finally getting to the reserve.

 

So you can neither pretend to be a crow flying about and measure distance that way :D and nor can you assume that x number of kms will take you x number of hours to cover! It all depends on your guide’s knowledge of the area, the time of year you visit (whether the dry river beds are flowing or not) and how long you are prepared to off-road! It is roughly 350 kms each way from Abéché to Oryx Base Camp, and it takes 4-5 hours one way to get there during daylight hours.

 

I would highly recommend spending at least 1 night at the base camp (preferably 2 if you are a photographer, or a keen conservation-minded person), and it makes sense to do this while returning from Ennedi. You will  definitely need a 4x4, even if you do a stand-alone trip to Ouadi-Rimé. The base camp is nice, happy to receive visitors with some prior notice, and best of all, they have running water and a flushing toilet, which feels like decadent luxury after 10 days in the desert :D 

 

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We were just the second group of visitors to Base Camp this year (March 1) and the SCF team, as well the scientists and staff and rangers were all that was warm & welcoming & so happy to show us the work they were doing. Everyone speaks French, so if you don’t, make sure your guide can interpret for you. Or else, join me on our trip next year – I’ll probably be the interpreter again.:)

 

Oof, that was a marathon and not very light reading either! :D I promise that the Ennedi TR (coming shortly) will be light as a thistle - even lighter than a dandelion. But as weighty as this one was, this is such an uplifting story that I thought it deserved its own stand-alone report.

 

 

Edited by Sangeeta

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Treepol

@Sangeeta thanks for this interesting report from a little known park. Its great to see photos of he rare addax, scimitar-horned oryx, dama and dorcas gazelles. Thanks also for the happy ostrich story, being transported in a cool box is a practical idea.

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Kitsafari

ooooh those dama gazelles just take my breath away - how stunning they are. and so are the oryx and the addax and the dorca gazelles. thanks for sharing.

 

I hope you will do a TR on zakouma as well, and also hope @Galago will do hers. no two trips to the same spot are the same, so I very much look forward to reading about zakouma and ennedi. 

 

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michael-ibk

Extraordinary, Sangeeta, thank you for this detailed report, a real pleasure to read. Should be published somewhere! Great to see Dave´s photos again, fantastic to see such good Pictures of These rare, magnificent animals!

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Safaridude

@Sangeeta  Wow... just wow!

 

Just reading through this report makes me hot and thirsty.  

 

A great, comprehensive report.  And great photos, Dave.

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Towlersonsafari

hat an adventure and wahr splendid antelopes @Sangeeta

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ajma

Very interesting and informative report about unknown territory and extremely rare species, thank you, 

JM 

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inyathi
Posted (edited)

@Sangeeta Fantastic trip, I’m so glad, I inspired it, but for the fact that I’ve now turned the same shade of green as one of my safari shirts, with envy that is.:)

 

The situation with the last wild addax in Termit and Tin Toumma in Niger is absolutely tragic, I have to say though without wanting to let the Chinese of the hook entirely, that my understanding is that the government sent the army into the reserve, to protect the Chinese oil workers from possible terrorist attack, they would be an obvious target for kidnapping or murder and it was the Nigerien soldiers who killed the addax. That at least is what I read. Great to see addax in the wild in Chad, there are to my knowledge reintroduced addax now in both Morocco and Tunisia, but they are all in fenced reserves, so they don’t qualify as truly wild.

 

Good to see work being done to breed dama gazelles, they are such beautiful animals. As far as other wild populations are concerned, the Red List Map just shows populations in Chad, Niger and Mali and likely extinct populations in Algeria and Morocco, it is my understanding that the Mhorr gazelle is the most endangered of the subspecies, if the population on the Algeria/Morocco border really is extinct, than I presume the Mhorr is extinct in the wild. There is a captive population, but they are extremely inbred, as they are all descended from I think only about six animals captured in Western Sahara, (formerly Spanish Sahara) they were taken to Spain to a captive breeding centre in Almeria which has the only desert in Europe, this region is where they used to film Spaghetti Westerns. Some were evidently sent from there to the US, I saw some at San Diego Zoo on my one visit to the US, they're much darker than the gazelles in OROA.

 

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Nanger dama mhorr

 

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There is a project to reintroduce Mhorr gazelles to the wild in a reserve in Southern Morocco (or occupied Western Sahara if you are Saharawi) the project started in 2015, I don't know how far it has progressed, I just briefly looked at the following paper that I found on the subject. 

 

The first reintroduction project for mhorr gazelle (Nanger dama mhorr) into the wild: Knowledge and experience gained to support future conservation actions

 

Interesting about the ostriches, as I knew that AP were reintroducing them to Ennedi, good to know that they are sharing them with OROA. Once the time is right, I believe AP will be looking to restore missing antelopes to Ennedi, in a year or two OROA will quite likely be able to spare a few animals, this would be more cost effective than flying them in from zoos, unless they need to for genetic reasons, but given how rare all these species are, finding captive animals unrelated to those now in OROA might be a challenge.  

 

I hope this will inspire future visits to OROA, when it’s possible to think about foreign travel again. :) 

Edited by inyathi

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Zubbie15

Thanks for sharing @Sangeeta, what a great adventure and really well captured by Dave. 

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twaffle

@Sangeeta  absolutely love this. What a determined adventurer you are and it’s so great that you can share them with us. 

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marg

@Sangeeta..thank you so much for taking us to places that we would have never known about.  Oh my wish to be younger and to go on these adventures with you!

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Caracal
20 hours ago, Sangeeta said:

this is such an uplifting story that I thought it deserved its own stand-alone report.

 

@Sangeeta - What a special report full of fascinating information and great photos. Being an antelope fan I'll now be reading up a lot more on these rare and beautiful species.

                         Certainly uplifting - your great adventure has raised my spirits. Thank you.

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ForWildlife

Fantastic! I would love to visit Chad one day. It's becoming quite the destination with Zakouma, Ennedi and OROA, and possibly Manda and Lake Chad.

 

I was wondering about condition of the skin on some of the Oryx. Is that from ashes or possibly bad skin due to bad condition at that time of the year?

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inyathi

I was interested to read the following in the latest Zakouma Newsletter that I've received from AP.

 

Quote

A further 18 ostrich chicks have been translocated to Ennedi and the Ouadi-Rimé Ouadi-Hachim (OROA) Faunal Reserve bringing the total to 30 chicks captured in Zakouma.

 

The necessary measures they have had to take because of Covid-19 make for rather more depressing reading, although it essentially just means they've stopped anything deemed non-essential, their work protecting Zakouma and Siniaka Minia is essential, so will carry on as normal, but Zakouma is now closed to tourists, until who knows when. I don't know if people were still going to Zakouma last month, but I would imagine that there must have been a few people booked to visit this April, who've had to cancel. It someways it's not so bad, because I think Camp Nomade would have only stayed open for about another week anyway and then closed for the wet season, Campement de Tinga remains open for I think two weeks or so longer. I fear that they won't be able to reopen in November, as I'm sure that world won't be back to travelling by then. 

 

I was very glad to read that the two black rhinos are thriving,  but I've not seen any news on when they plan to bring more in, I understood that it might have been this year, I wonder if the damn virus will have put paid to that idea, or whether they were intending to wait a bit longer, when they do bring some new rhinos, they need to guarantee that they can keep them alive, the last thing they want is another tragedy, like last time.   

 

 

 

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Sangeeta
Posted (edited)

Thank you so much, all of you, for taking the time to read this report. Since there's no 'action' here, I was not sure if many people would, but I should have known better on ST :D

 

@Treepol - that cooler box cracked me up too! The chicks had their own air conditioning on that ride up from Zakouma!

 

@Kitsafari - Kit, I was not the Zakouma leg of this trip sadly (it would have been a long time away from work), but, the good news is that our very own  @Zarek Cockar was! He led the Chalo Africa group to Zakouma this year, so perhaps we need to nag him to write something.

 

Thank you, @michael-ibk , it really felt like a great privilege to see these animals. In times like these, it really does the heart good to know that there are caring people in so many parts of the world who have dedicated their lives to causes like these.

 

@Safaridude I missed you on this trip. We need to go back all together one more time. Surprisingly, it wasn't as hot as it looks in the pictures. February is a very good time to visit Ennedi and OROA.

PS: @Safaridude, I think got my oryx slam!

 

@Towlersonsafari - thank you! It was a lot of fun, and Dave's pictures are lovely (although he does not seem to think they are!) I am so glad we made it there after all.

 

@Zubbie15 I agree completely :) Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

 

@twaffle Dragging you along next time, I am. 

 

@ajma How nice to meet you virtually - thank you for reading this and we look forward to seeing some of your photographs on the forum.

 

@marg Do, do, do! I am hardly a spring chicken myself, but we'll manage, I promise :D 

 

@inyathi You get a whole separate post to yourself, haha.

 

@Caracal I've missed hearing from you. Hope all is well? Thanks for reading along and yes, I know about your weakness for antelopes and very glad you enjoyed this.

 

@ForWildlife Yes, the Ennedi-OROA-Zakouma loop will be a wonderful holiday in the years to come - a bit long maybe, so my next challenge is to figure out a way to fit this whole trip into 14-16 days! I'd be keen on learning more about Manda myself, but the Lake Chad area is still very iffy in terms of security.

 

About those black stains/patches on the oryx bodies, I am as mystified as you. I should have asked the program manager, but when we saw them in person, they were not so close to us and the black markings did not look so obvious. In the pictures here, they are much more prominent. I'll write to SCF and get back to you on this (unless someone already knows the answers?) to this?

 

 

Edited by Sangeeta

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Botswanadreams

Nice to see Ahmed is with you on this trip. He is an amazing guy. I reale loved him. He was the best we had in Ennedi. How is his wife doing? She was very ill last year and we took her with us to get to a hospital. 

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TonyQ

What an adventure, amazing report, beautiful antelopes 

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Sangeeta
Posted (edited)

@inyathi - thanks for adding the additional information about the Dama sub-species. The link on the mhorr gazelle introduction into Safia was extremely interesting. In OROA too, I think striped hyena and caracal will likely be their only predators, other than poachers, hunters and dogs. Based on your pictures of the mhorr (in the west) and the Smithsonian's pictures of the ruficollis (addra in the east), the OROA ones are likely the ones with the middle coloration (N. Dama Dama).

 

Am I really discussing gazelle sub-species?? Hahaha, who'd have thunk it? :D  That @Safaridude has a lot to answer for, if you ask me, with his antelope obsession and getting me sucked into this too.

 

So of the Chadian gazelles, I've seen the red-fronted gazelle and the dama now. That leaves me with the rhim gazelle? Who's coming to Tibesti with me? 

Edited by Sangeeta

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