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Could an Independent Southern Sudan Be a Haven for Wildlife?

Few outsiders realize what a truly amazing wildlife habitat the Southern Sudan region was before the war broke out in the early 1980s.

The people of the semi-autonomous region of Southern Sudan (or South Sudan) are now voting on a referendum for independence. We've already looked at how post-vote violence can hopefully be quelled by satellites and the "soaring" national anthem that the new nation would have queued up to play upon successful secession. Believe it or not, there's an environmental story to be told here too.

If Southern Sudan does succeed in creating a new nation, it could be a landmark opportunity for wildlife conservation and natural resource management in Eastern Africa. What few outsiders realize is what a truly amazing wildlife habitat the Southern Sudan region was before the war broke out in the early 1980s. The area "boasted some of the most spectacular and important wildlife populations in Africa," including the migration of 1.3 million antelope, the second largest wildlife migration in the world.


That's according to Stephen Sanderson, President of the Wildlife Conservation Society, who penned an op-ed on Saturday explaining why.

The case for conservation is clear: The protection of parkland and wildlife must be a rallying point for Southern Sudan. Animal migrations, along with pristine savanna and wetland habitat, could become one of the greatest tourism attractions in Africa and a key component of Southern Sudan's growth and economic security.

Local communities live off the land and depend upon its management for their livelihoods. Integrating conservation in land-use planning offers hope to those most in need.

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Let's hope that a newly autonomous Southern Sudanese government recognizes the importance and economic value of this natural capital, and that they act with consideration of the long term well-being of the region.

photo of kob antelope (cc) by Frank Dikert

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