After two protracted civil wars, the Republic of South Sudan emerged on 9 July 2011 as an independent nation. South Sudan is diverse, vast and culturally rich, with over 40 ethnic groups and languages.
Historically its floodplains, grasslands and forests teemed with wildlife thanks to the fresh water and fertile soils provided by the White Nile and its tributaries.
Despite the ravages of war, a huge wildlife migration (on a par with the Serengeti) persists in South Sudan and its location presents an interesting mix of Central and East African forest and savannah species. Important pockets of wildlife remain across the country, although these are hard to research and protect.
Unfortunately, threats to the country’s wildlife are emerging; this area has a long historical association with ivory trafficking, but the increasing global demand for ivory coupled with extreme poverty is now driving ever higher poaching, bushmeat hunting and overexploitation of other natural resources. Meanwhile, the capacity of the new government is stretched to breaking point as it grapples with recurring outbreaks of conflict – something that also makes it difficult for international NGOs to operate in the country.
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South Sudan is located in Africa. It is bordered by Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the DRC and the Central African Republic.
of South Sudan’s population is living in severe poverty.
white-eared kob antelope join other species in massive seasonal migrations, rivalling those of the Serengeti.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) is bringing its extensive experience of working in conflict and post-conflict countries to South Sudan. We have been working in-country since before its independence (strictly speaking since 1903, when concern for the fate of this area’s wildlife provided the original catalyst for the founding of our organisation) and have managed to maintain a presence despite the ongoing conflict.
Our work initially focused on working with the government to restart conservation in the dormant Southern National Park. We also joined forces with the Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism with the aim of verifying anecdotal sighting of the northern white rhino – one of the last places these animals had been seen in the wild. Sadly, none was found during the extensive search.
In 2013 we were forced to put our work in Southern National Park on hold due to renewed conflict in the area. Since then, we have been focusing our efforts on protecting an important tropical forest area on the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This forest corridor is nationally unique and contains chimpanzees, two pangolin species and South Sudan’s only population of forest elephants.
Despite much tension between people and authorities in South Sudan, we have been able to set up a successful project that sees community wildlife ambassadors and Wildlife Service rangers working together to patrol and monitor the forest. Not only is this helping to reduce threats to biodiversity, but it is also providing a foundation for stability and security in the area.
In the longer term, we aim to recommence our work in Southern National Park once the conflict has subsided. We will also be working with the government to boost its capacity and improve conservation legislation, and with other sectors to address the country’s serious socio-economic problems in an environmentally sustainable way.
‘Working in South Sudan is fascinating and complex. Rich biodiversity remains in the face of innumerable struggles. During this humanitarian and political crisis, FFI is welcomed very warmly to provide time-critical resources and expertise for protected areas and their wildlife. People don’t want their wildlife and forests to disappear.’
Protecting biodiversity and improving livelihoods in south-western South Sudan
Habitat loss poses arguably the greatest threat to the world’s biodiversity, with human activity inflicting unprecedented changes on the natural habitats on which wildlife depends.
Illegal wildlife trade has become a high-profile issue receiving global media attention, not least because of its devastating effect on populations of rhinos, elephants and other charismatic wildlife.