South Sudan’s Wildlife Casualties

The Beginning of the End

Salva Kiir, the president of South Sudan agreed to try to end the conflict of six months by forming a transitional government. This is promising for the country but already more than 10,000 people have been killed and one million have been displaced. Not only have the people of South Sudan suffered, but so has the tragedy that is this war affected the wildlife. Unfortunately, in times of need, fighters on both sides have been accused of killing wild animals to feed themselves.

Cause and Effect

Poaching is unregulated and common in South Sudan but conservationists have said that since the conflict, there has been an increase in the killing and trafficking of wildlife. Elephants are being killed for their meat and tusks and the large migratory animals are being hunted for bush meat. With such a violent war it has been difficult for wildlife officers to stop either side from poaching and results in less protection of the national parks and wildlife reserves. During the two-decade civil war between north and south Sudan the elephant population dropped from 100,000 to 5,000. It is unlikely that the wildlife of south Sudan could have taken another decimation of populations. The animals that are hit the hardest are those that don’t migrate.

The Wildlife Conservation Society team led by Paul Elkan (left) outfits a tranquilized female elephant with a radio-tracking collar. Source - npr

The Wildlife Conservation Society team led by Paul Elkan (left) outfits a tranquilized female elephant with a radio-tracking collar.
Source – npr

The Wildlife Conservation Society collared 34 elephants with GPS satellite collars in an effort to track the animals across South Sudan. It was stated that between January and April that some of the elephants had been killed as collars were found behind rebel forces’ lines.

It is thought that the poaching is largely a result of uncontrolled gun distribution. Conflict between the Yau Yau and SPLA displaced wildlife rangers from Boma National Park. No efforts to conserve the animals could be made. The situation is worsened by the lack of resources for the rangers to deal with poachers who are often highly armed and organised. As in so many countries the is no specific law to deal with poaching and often the captured poachers are set free.

The problem is that there is a lack of understanding. A lot of local people have limited awareness of the important of conservation of their wildlife. If the wildlife was properly managed and the conflict controlled, the tourism industry generated could contribute 10% to GDP in 10 years.

The Lost Herds of Southern Sudan. Source - National Geographic Photograph by George Steinmetz

The Lost Herds of Southern Sudan. Source – National Geographic Photograph by George Steinmetz

South Sudan is no doubt enduring a tragedy. The loss of so many people is incomprehensible and it is sad that the wildlife has to suffer as well.

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