- African Parks will manage the 40,000-square-kilometer (15,444-square-mile) Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve in Chad.
- The reserve is home to unique rock formations, ancient human art, and wildlife, including a small population of crocodiles.
- Two semi-nomadic groups currently depend on the oases found in the Ennedi Reserve.
The government of Chad has enlisted the aid of a conservation NGO to run a massive national park in the country’s northeast that is home to signs of human habitation stretching back 10,000 years.
African Parks, which runs 13 other parks in partnership with authorities in nine countries, announced the agreement on Feb. 19 to manage Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve.
“Together we aim to rehabilitate an exceptionally important natural and cultural [UN] World Heritage Site for the benefit of the ecosystem and the thousands of people who rely on it,” African Parks CEO Peter Fearnhead said in a statement.
Ennedi straddles the junction between the Sahara Desert and the band of dry savanna running across Africa’s widest point known as the Sahel. It is known for unique rock formations and topography etched by wind and water. Paintings on the rocks attest to the presence of humans in this part of the world for millennia, and to this day, Ennedi’s permanent oases remain important linchpins for two semi-nomadic groups that call the region home.
The park was once home to a variety of wildlife. Today, Ennedi still supports more than 525 plant species and a “relic” population of seven crocodiles, as well as serves as a critical stopover for dozens of migrating bird species. But African Parks said that poaching since the mid-20th century, along with unsustainable livestock rearing and tree clearing for firewood, had wiped out most of the region’s wildlife. The organization has plans for “key species reintroductions” in the future.
Additionally, the government of Chad is looking to preserve the integrity of the park’s archaeological sites.
“Ennedi is a unique international treasure, steeped in a rich cultural history of human presence within remarkable natural surroundings,” Ahmat Mbodou Mahamat, the minister of environment and fisheries, said in the statement.
“The partnership aligns with our imperative to protect this ancient system, to ensure its continued outflow of benefits to people, and to create further opportunities for tourism, progressive archaeological and conservation initiatives, collaborations and local livelihood development,” he added.
The European Union and the Dutch Postcode Lottery have pledged to contribute total funding of 7.7 million euros ($9.5 million) over the next three years to the management of the park, which, spanning 40,000 square kilometers (15,444 square miles), is nearly the size of Switzerland.
“Ennedi is an absolute global gem but requires protection to secure this historic and culturally significant landscape,” Margriet Schreuders, head of charities at the Dutch Postcode Lottery, said in the statement. Schreuders said the organization hoped the new partnership would result in Ennedi’s “transformation over time to benefit both the people and the wildlife of Chad.”
Banner image of a crocodile in Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve ©Michael Viljoen, courtesy of African Parks.
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