South Sudan has a dark past, recently emerging from a 21-year civil conflict, but has just become the newest country in the world with high hopes to develop and recover from their past. Numerous organizations have been and continue to be focused on assessing human livelihood needs, as the majority of citizens are living on the edge of subsistence with low agricultural productivity or income generating options to meet basic needs. These assessments, however, do not measure the dependence of these communities on wildlife resources that contribute to protein and income needs. Abundant wildlife remains despite civil conflict; one of the most remarkable recent wildlife discoveries is the continuation of significant densities and migrations of selected species of wildlife in Southern Sudan. According to a survey conducted by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS 2007), this persistence of wildlife includes white-eared kob (Kobus kob leucotis), tiang (Damaliscus korrigum korrigum) and mongala gazelle (Gazella rufitrons albonotata), where their numbers, although lower than their pre-war populations, still remain high. However, many other species including elephants (Loxodonta africana) and more sedentary species such as zebra (Equus quagga) and buffalo (Syncerus caffer) have seen their populations fall by at least 80% in the past 25 years earlier. Although protected areas of South Sudan make up a large percentage of the land surface, protection is limited and bushmeat hunting is widespread. One recent biodiversity assessment identifies bushmeat as a significant contributor to poverty coping strategies and suggests it is also a threat to biodiversity. Unfortunately, this study does not include the evaluation of overhunting impacts on local wildlife populations nor lack of capacity to manage sustainable hunting levels in its recommendations for a sustainable trade of bushmeat. Any recommendation for sustainable wildlife utilization must be accompanied with planning to support monitoring wildlife populations as well as enabling resources for capacity to manage hunting, trade, enforcement, alternatives and awareness.
In 2009, research by BEAN founding members Isaac Seme and Peter Amum in what is now South Sudan highlighted the lack of data and awareness on the levels of bushmeat hunting in this autonomous region. Today, in a new country where environmental awareness has been a low concern, this research has moved to action at multiple levels of society. Over 16 bushmeat awareness packages have been aired over South Sudan Radio to introduce the conservation challenge to the public, alongside the Wildlife Conservation Society have taken their bushmeat awareness campaign to the army, local and state government, and urban citizens to raise the profile of prolific hunting in the new country where no environmental education has happened in decades.
Badingilo National Park, South Sudan
Bushmeat consumption around Badingilo National Park and the wildlife dispersal area is widespread, and hunting is carried out by civilians and law enforcement agents alike. When surveyed about behavior change, rural peoples explained that the best alternatives to bushmeat included fish and chicken; cattle are highly valued in South Sudanese society and are rarely sold as food. To combat the daunting threats to wildlife, a founding BEAN member is working on a multi-pronged approach—raising awareness at multiple levels of society and government and helping to increase capacity of law enforcement. In addition, building on support from USFWS and WCS, hunters are being engaged along two Nile River communities in a project to bring more fish proteins into the local markets and to provide increased revenue through alternative means to hunting. In collaboration with a Wildlife Conservation Society program with adjacent communities, hunters are getting trained by Ministry of Fisheries experts on sustainable fishing, preservation techniques, and business skills. The desired result will be less poaching of local wildlife, and less pressure on the migration of tiang, a sub-species of topi whose population of nearly 250,000 animals migrate through a small corridor along the Nile (Source: WCS).
For publications on BEAN’s work in South Sudan, click here .