Geography & Wildlife

Three main regions

The Saharan desert region covers roughly the northern third of Chad.

Desert dust

Dust storm over Bodele Depression, by NASA's Earth Observatory (Bodele Depression Dust Storm) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Bodélé Depression in Chad is a low-lying bed of silt lying between two mountain ranges which form a natural wind tunnel. The area makes up less than 1% of the Sahara, but could be responsible for at least a quarter of the airborne dust from the desert. The NASA satellite image above shows a huge dust storm over the region.

This huge desert area is broken up by the spectacular Tibesti mountain range. This volcanic massif has the country’s highest peak – Emi Koussi, at 3,415 metres.

The central Sahel region of Chad mostly consists of flat semi-arid land and savannah. In the east, the land rises up to form the Ennedi and Ouaddia Massifs, which run down the eastern border.

The southwest is a more fertile zone dominated by the Logoni and Chari rivers, which run into Lake Chad. These rivers are navigable by boats for most of the year, but become low in the dry season.

A threatened natural environment

Replanting

Over the last five years, over 1.2 million trees have been replanted. This reforestation programme is designed to fight the encroachment of desert sands, as well as to give locals an extra source of income. Acacia trees provide gum arabic and fruit trees allow locals to sell fruits such as lemons and mangos.

Many areas of Chad would once have had dense woodlands and an abundance of wildlife. However, in the past century many trees have been cut down and soils have become drier. Trees which thrive in these conditions are acacias, baobab, dates and palm trees.

Wildlife numbers have been severely affected by loss of natural habitat. Hunting and competition from livestock have also led to the virtual elimination of large animal species, such as lions, leopards and rhino.

Animals are protected in the country’s national parks and reserve areas, but poaching is still a huge problem. Chad’s remaining elephants are particularly at risk, with some months seeing around 30 animals killed for their ivory.

Reptiles, birds and fish

Marbou stork, by Chris Eason (originally posted to Flickr as Marabou Storks) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Smaller mammals, such as rodent species, are still common, as are reptiles such as crocodiles, rock pythons and spitting cobras.

Chad is also rich in birds. Hundreds of species migrate each year to the Lake Chad region, to join birds which live there all year. Notable species include the Nubian bustard, ground hornbill, pink-backed pelican, African spoonbill and Marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus), as shown in the photo.

The lake is also known for its many fish – over 40 species can be found in its waters, including types of lungfish and sailfin which are unique to the region.

However, fish numbers are dropping as the lake contracts in size – see Lake Chad. This is causing disputes among local fishermen and farmers.