Traveling to ChadRoxAnna Breitigan July 16, 2018
I began this adventure from LAX international terminal, I had no issues except that we already had heard there would be a delay with the project that I was going to participate in as I boarded. I met up with others traveling for this project at the Paris airport. Once we were all together we began to update each other on what we knew. We still had a long way to go. We were all on our way to Chad, right in the middle of Africa. Our flight was delayed and so we waited and waited. For anyone who flies and is delayed you know how the anticipation level rises. We finally boarded but now we would not be arriving until very, very late. Luckily we had someone meeting us so we were happy about that. As we went through customs everyone was hoping all the luggage will have arrived since this is not a daily flight. I was one of the lucky ones who received all their luggage, others were not so lucky. After only a couple of hours sleep, I headed out on the first day of a 12 hour trek across Chad in a truck. We pitched our tents out in the desert bush the first night of our travels by land, had a quick bite of dinner and fell into a slumber under the beautiful stars. The next morning we rose early and started our day that would only be an 11 hour trek. So after four long, long days of travel our group made it to base camp. Others would follow a few days later and some had already arrived.
So why is this group meeting in Chad and why would we go such long distances to get here. The answer to that is because of animal called the Scimitar-horned oryx. I realize most of you have never heard of this majestic antelope and are quickly googling it right now. I, however, have a connection to this animal and after these last few days, I suspect I always will in a deep and meaningful way. I am the Species Survival Plan Coordinator for this species which means I have committed to championing for this species so that it does not disappear. It not disappearing is the whole reason a big group of us have met up in the middle of the desert in this country most people will never see.
The Scimitar-horned oryx project is a success story of people who believed in this animal and did not want to see it go extinct in its home range. People from different countries, different ways of life, different cultures but a people who have one thing in common, they did not want to see this animal go extinct, which it was. A few years ago, conversations started happening with private landowners, zoos and governments like the Chad government who wanted to see this animal return to the desert. And so a dream turned into a reality and the oryx were brought back to their land. These animals have traveled from all over the globe and now are roaming in the desert. But before they can get there they must be put into a prerelease pen, monitored and collared for tracking purposes. The collars are why we have all gathered here, we will be putting collars on the newest animals in the prerelease pens and then a few days later, the gates will be opened and they can come and go as they are comfortable until they finally don’t return. They become truly wild animals ranging in their homeland. A group of dedicated people over see the animals, the preserve and protect them from harms way. By harms way I mean poachers, luckily, Chad takes poaching very seriously and there are harsh penalties if you get caught.
So now you know where I am, why I am here and what I will be doing. I love the story of this animal, because like others, the Mexican wolf, the Black-footed ferret and the California Condor, this animal has returned to its home range because a group of likeminded individuals dreamt it possible and made it happened. Proving once again that when we work together, put aside differences, amazing things can be accomplished.