Zakouma National Park Manager Leon Lamprecht doing his daily routine of serving elephants water on his porch. PHOTO: Lindi Masinga/ANA

Chad - After leaving South Africa in 1992, Zakouma National Park Manager Leon Lamprecht has made Chad his home and his porch a safe haven for elephants.

Lamprecht said Zakouma had lost around 4 000 elephants over eight years but since African Parks took charge of managing the park, they only lost 22 elephants in the park and six in the past seven years. 

"Zakouma is a unique place and a place of abundance due to the soil here and the only water in the dry season."

On a daily basis Lamprecht turns on his tap and around five male elephants would make their way to his doorstep to get a drink of cold water from his hosepipe as he holds it to their trunks.

"I started off as the park manager [at] Odzala National Park in Congo Brazzaville. I did that for three years and three years at the African Parks operations manager supporting Zakouma, Odzala Garamba and Chinko." 

Lamprecht fell in love with the bush after growing up in the Kruger National Park, in South Africa where his father was a sectional and game ranger.

"I've worked with animals all my life," he said.

"What's makes the situation in Zakouma unique is that we have 100 percent community buy in - without that conservation will not be successful."

The strange thing about it all, is that these elephants were close to extinction but have managed to trust a man despite the trauma they have experienced.

Zakouma National Park Manager Leon Lamprecht doing his daily routine of serving elephants water on his porch. Video: Lindi Masinga/ANA

"The reason Zakouma is successful with community engagement is because they see elephants as a national asset and no one here poached elephants," said Lamprecht.

"The poachers are external and are as much to the community as they are to the park."

"These [poachers] people...come from Sudan, they travel light and fast so their horses get tired and sick and they sometimes kill their horses. They also travel with very little food so they will go to villages and take resources," Lamprecht said.

"The park has got a early warning radio network around the park in the form of 16 radios situated in strategic villages. When villagers see armed horseman they call us on the radio and we dispatch aircraft immediately to go look for the poachers and rangers to go make an arrest."

Lamprecht said protecting the community has assisted the park with dealing with poaching.

"Through this security we provide [for] the villagers, they buy in 100 percent into what we are doing, support us and do not poach," he said.

"What makes Zakouma different from the Kruger National Park is that's rhino horn is probably 20 times more relevant and valuable than elephant therefore it's extremely difficult to get the support from communities by providing them with security only and they have a very good infrastructure and support system where they don't need assistance from the park because government provides that."

Lamprecht said he currently works on a three-year contract, with the possibility to stay on - which he says he strongly believes he will do.

African News Agency/ANA