Forest Elephant Sanctuary Under Seige

There is no better place to study endangered African forest elephants than the Dzanga Bai in the Central African Republic.  Elephants are drawn in large numbers to this small clearing by the mineral rich soil.  They will hang out for hours at a time making themselves easily visible to researchers and tourists, for the chance to eat dirt.  The Bai located in the protected Dzanga-Ndoki National Park also offered a measure of security while the elephants were openly exposed.

Having big groups of elephants show up every day at the same spot also makes the Dzanga a target for poachers.  Military patrols and ecco guards had been successfully protecting the park until May, when heavily armed poachers came into the Bai and murdered more than two dozen elephants.  Conservation workers were forced to flee for their own safety.  For several days no one was sure what was happening.

National Geographic Explorer in Residence and Wildlife Conservation Society Biologist Mike Fay decided to go into the Dzanga Reserve himself to assess the situation.  I talked with him for my radio show National Geographic Weekend about what his was able to accomplish to insure the protection of the forest elephants.  You can here the full interview at but here is part of what he had to say as well as video of the elephants in the Bai that I took a couple of years ago.  I also talk with WCS biologist Andrea Turkalo about what this is such a special spot for elephants.


Meet the Author
Boyd Matson, in his work for National Geographic, has been bitten, scratched, or pooped on, and occasionally kissed by most of the creatures found at your local zoo. What he refers to as his job, others might describe as a career spent attending summer camp for adults. Currently Matson is the host of the weekly radio show, “National Geographic Weekend.” Conducting interviews from the studio and from the field, Matson connects with some of the greatest explorers and adventurers on the planet to transport listeners to the far corners of the world and to the hidden corners of their own backyards. Matson also writes about his experiencs in his monthly column, “Boyd Matson Unbound” for National Geographic Traveler magazine, produces videos for National, and serves as a spokesperson for the National Geographic Society.