Radio Expeditions


This is DAY TO DAY. The last time this program spoke with Mike Fay he was on the back of a truck near an oasis in Chad, in Africa. Talking to us by satellite phone, he describes watching a lion eating an elephant it had killed a day earlier.

Mr. MIKE FAY (Biologist, Wildlife Conservation Society): Ooh, this lion is tugging on this elephant right now. It's amazing how a lion could eat a whole elephant.

CHADWICK: Mike works for the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York. He was on a survey of Chad, a country of vast spaces - a lot of it in the Sahara Desert - with relatively few people but healthy wildlife populations. Mike completed his survey earlier this month. There were some disturbing findings. He's back in the U.S. He joins us for another National Geographic Radio Expeditions interview.

Mike, welcome back. And you found evidence of elephant poaching.

Mr. FAY: Yes, we did - lots of it - a hundred dead elephants.

CHADWICK: All with their tusks hacked off. These are ivory poachers.

Mr. FAY: Yeah. When you fly over, you can see very clearly the trunks are sliced off the heads of these things. The tusks are chopped out, big pools of blood, and there's no doubt about it, these boys are being poached.

CHADWICK: Now, when we spoke earlier, you told me you'd encountered local soldiers in this park where you were, and you thought they had a very protective attitude toward the local wildlife.

Mr. FAY: Well, the park is very well protected. There's about 96 armed guards that protect the park. The problem is, in the wet season, the elephants all leave the national park. And so, you know, when they leave the park, who knows what's happening? Well, now we know.

CHADWICK: How big is this park? Where is it in Chad? And how many elephants are there in it?

Mr. FAY: It's in southeastern Chad. And the interesting thing about this park is it's relatively small; it's only about 750,000 acres. But what you have to realize 30 years ago, there was a Texas-sized area that contained about 300,000 elephants. And over the past three decades, these poachers have killed almost all those elephants except the 4,000 that still exist in Zakouma National Park and about 2500 in Garamba National Park, which is way down in DRC. All the rest are pretty much gone.

CHADWICK: And you told me earlier you think these poachers are sort of the same people who are operating in the Darfur region and terrorizing people in Sudan.

Mr. FAY: Well, 20 years ago, in Central African Republic, we had a similar problem, Sudanese horsemen that were coming in, in the hundreds, killing elephants. They killed thousands of elephants in the northern Central African Republic in the 1970s and ‘80s. A lot of these guys have become what we call now Janjiweed, you know, these raiders of Darfur. And we see a very similar thing going on in Chad.

CHADWICK: Well, given all that is happening in this region - with the Darfur crisis, as well - is there anything the government of Chad can do to assert authority here?

Mr. FAY: Well, you know, law and order is something the president talks about a lot in Chad. You know, eastern Chad could very easily become a Darfur if law and order doesn't prevail, you know. So the only way to really keep this park protected is to up the guard force and get organized outside the national park, where the elephants go in the wet season. And I think we can do that and we've been starting to organize ourselves to do that.

CHADWICK: Wildlife biologist Mike Fay of the Wildlife Conservation Society. We have some of his pictures at our Web site,

Mike, thank you.

Mr. FAY: Thank you, Alex.

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