Although it is not a well known fact, South Sudan is home to an impressive selection of flora and fauna within its diverse landscapes. With several national parks and protected reserves, there are plenty of places in South Sudan where wild animals can thrive in their natural environment. For instance, the Boma-Jonglei ecosystem in South Sudan has been recognized as one of the largest wildlife habitats in East Africa, and the Sudd wetlands are protected under the Ramsar convention.
Some of the wildlife species in South Sudan include the white-eared Kob and the Nile Lechwe gazelle species, as well as oryx, elephants, buffalo, giraffes and lions. Species such as the white-eared Kob are part of a massive migrating population that travels through Africa. This is regarded as one of the largest migrations of large mammals on earth, with around 1.4 million antelope annually travelling through the region. Some of these, such as the Nile Lechwe, are endangered species. The Sudd wetlands, which is a large swamp formed by the Nile River, is host to large populations of migrating flocks of birds. Over 400 species of birds can be found in this area, including pelicans, cranes, while crocodiles and hippopotami can be seen basking in the shallow waters.
The long civil war which took its toll on the country caused several of the animal populations to leave the area due to hunting and military activity. However, the diminished populations that remain in the country still account for a significant presence, and these are reported to be growing in number. The shortage of food during war time resulted in increased poaching and hunting, but this has since been drastically reduced. With the return of stability in the region, South Sudan’s wildlife is slowly beginning to recover some of its former glory.
As South Sudan develops, close attention will need to be paid to the situation of the wildlife in the region. The Boma-Jonglei region, which is home to a considerable animal population, is at risk from oil exploration operations and deforestation due to urban expansion. In the process of developing the nation, new roads and building could encroach on natural habitats and endanger local animals. Poaching also still poses a threat to certain species, since small arms are commonplace in the countryside. However, if South Sudan can ensure the preservation of its wildlife, it would be able to market it to attract tourism towards the same success that has been seen by Kenya’s well known Serengeti National Park.