FFI has worked in South Sudan since 2010, but civil conflict meant all conservation initiatives had to be scaled back. In 2013, FFI re-located to south-western South Sudan, to the former state of Western Equatoria; the only region of South Sudan in which eastern chimpanzees, forest elephants and African golden cats exist.

The current project is focused on protecting biodiversity and improving livelihoods of local communities within two Game Reserves. Delivering Protected Area management and maintaining Community Managed Areas within the game reserves requires the Wildlife Service rangers and the communities adjacent to the Game Reserves have to work closely together – cooperation that is unique to this area of South Sudan. This has created a pocket of stability and security for FFI to continue our on-the-ground efforts.

This region of South Sudan has historically fallen within a regional wildlife trafficking corridor from Central to North Africa, with wildlife also at risk from poaching and unsustainable bush meat harvesting by local communities. Currently, twice monthly patrols are being conducted in attempt to enforce wildlife laws.

An understanding of the basic biodiversity of the area is fundamental to all other efforts, and it drives conservation and management decisions. Small mammal and bat trapping has been conducted and DNA samples taken, while extensive camera trapping helps to identify the medium to large mammals, and also characterises key habitats for forest elephants and chimpanzees.

Recently, FFI has also developed a community engagement and livelihood programme. Since its inception, this has built up trust and formed good working relationships. The programme takes into account the communities’ interests and needs, while also providing focus groups that offer information about agricultural activities and community use of forest resources.