Wildlife officials have warned that South Sudan risks losing its entire wildlife population in few years if the current level of poaching is not stopped. This is due to the high rate at which deforestation and poaching of wildlife including threatened species like elephants and rhinos.
Speaking at this year’s world Wildlife Day Celebration in Juba, Gen. Philip Chol Majak, the Director General of South Sudan Wildlife Service said 2016 has been the worst year for the country’s wildlife. Over 20 elephants have been reported killed in the past three months alone.
Chol says that the current political crisis characterized by insecurity in most parts of South Sudan largely accounts for increased poaching in the country’s national parks. South Sudan has six national game parks that protect incredible wildlife. However the majority of these protected areas are located in conflict-affected areas where law enforcement is often difficult leaving poachers to go unpunished. Chol warns that if the current trend of poaching and deforestation is not stopped, South Sudan risks losing its wildlife in the near future.
Wild Animals are Affected!
The most affected animal species are elephants and rhinos – and their numbers have continued to drop miserably in the last few years. The South Sudan Wildlife Service notes that the number of elephants in South Sudan has significantly dropped from 4,500 in 2008 to less than a thousand according to estimates.
It also reports that Rhinos have not been spotted in the country since independence amid reports that they might be extinct.
Who Are Behind the Destruction?
On several occasions, the South Sudan Wildlife Service has put blames on armed groups in the country for masterminding poaching in protected areas like game parks. “During the crisis, ivory trafficking and poaching is widespread across the country. This is due to limited wildlife laws enforcement agencies and lack of awareness of wildlife laws among the public and law enforcement agencies… Chol Stressed.
Chol says that Communities, Government, Private sector , international and regional partners need to be encouraged to respect wildlife laws,”. He adds on that the masses need to be educated about the benefits of protecting nature and available conservation laws.
Paul Elkan, Country Director of Wildlife Conservation Society, urged government and stakeholders to quickly step up tough laws to protect south Sudan’s natural resources before they get wasted.
Elkan called on the country to rectify the convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora (CITES) to ease the fight against poaching.
“We are urging the state governments, national government and community representatives to make natural resource governance transparent… the armed forces including SPLA –IO, Lords Resistant Army LRA, Cobra Faction and Civilians should be immediately told to halt illegal poaching and wildlife trafficking and forms of Wildlife Violations and perpetrators punished,” said Elkan.
According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), over 100,000 elephants were poached in Africa and some rhino populations facing extinction.