Interviews: Tracking Elephants in Chad

Elephants in the Salamat River Swamps i i

hide captionElephants in the Salamat River Swamps.

Michael Fay
Elephants in the Salamat River Swamps

Elephants in the Salamat River Swamps.

Michael Fay
Michael Fay and the single-engine plane he used for his 2003-2004 'mega-flyover' of Africa

hide captionMichael Fay and the single-engine plane he used for his 2003-2004 "mega-flyover" of Africa to survey the continent's wildlife.

National Geographic Society

National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence Mike Fay is currently tracking the migration of elephants on a conservation mission in Chad. He recently spoke, very quietly, with Alex Chadwick as he watched three lions eating a young elephant they recently killed.

Fay, one of the world's greatest living explorers, is studying the migration of wildlife in Zakuma National Park in the southeast corner of Chad — an area only 200 miles from the troubled region of Darfur in neighboring Sudan.

Fay says that despite the ethnic and religious turmoil in Sudan and the hundreds of thousands of refugees flooding into Chad, the park supports a surprisingly rich ecosystem largely untouched by man.

"It's one of these places on Earth where people think nothing can work," Fay says by satellite phone. "They think about famine, they think about warfare and they think about insecurity... Yet here we are, in this park that's been protected by the European Union for the past 15 years.

"There's millions and millions of birds here, and lots of mammals, and luxuriant growth — it's like a little oasis in the middle of a very desolate place," he says.

Fay plans to wait until the end of the dry season, usually in late May, and follow elephant herds to see how far they venture into the Sahara Desert.

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