When a few months ago 15 elephant carcasses were found, their tusks cut out, questions were being raised about South Sudan’s commitment to wildlife conservation, given that the country has not yet put their civil strife behind it.
Now, reports are coming in that another 17 elephant have been butchered for their ivory, in the same migration corridor where the previous killings happened.
When South Sudan emerged from the liberation war with the Khartoum regime, was to the surprise of many the country’s wildlife thriving, to a large part because even the troops needed permission to shoot game for food, ensuring that discipline was maintained.
Since the start of the armed conflict between the main political opponents, regime leader Salva Kiir and his former Vice President – now re-appointed to the position under the Addis Ababa peace terms but yet to return to Juba – Dr. Riek Machar, have militias and government troops as well as the SPLA-IO, the breakaway faction of the ruling party, reportedly engaged in large scale poaching of game. The need for meat, not just for the troops but also for sale to cash rich buyers, as well as trophies which can be sold, were the driving motive behind it and conservation circles have raised questions for how long the big herds can survive under such circumstances.
Citing a number of examples was the Wildlife Conservation Society a month ago quoted to have expressed their grave concerns over incidents of ivory smuggling, illegal mining in parks, organized trade in bush meat and a well near invasion by military poachers into the Badingilo National Park.
Tourism, in particular wildlife based tourism, could be a major source of revenues, jobs and foreign exchange earnings when the country eventually returns to peace, but poaching of such a scale can well wipe out the assets, i.e. wildlife needed to bring tourists into the country.
As a newly admitted member to the East African Community will South Sudan have to underwrite regional conservation and wildlife management policies and regulations and it is hoped that pressure from the rest of the EAC will bring the regime in line and more energetically fight poaching