Herds of migrating wildlife survive and thrive in southern Sudan

Wildlife populations are thriving in, of all places, war-wracked southern Sudan. The first aerial wildlife survey of the country taken in 25 years found herds of more than a million gazelle and antelope, migrating in formations up to 30 miles across and 50 miles long. The numbers compare to or even surpass the throngs of wildebeest on the famous Serengeti plains. Wartime poachers and rebel hunters do seem to have had more of an impact in the western part of the region, where previously numerous buffalo, elephant, rhinoceros, and zebra populations are decimated or missing altogether; but in the east, ostriches, lions, leopards, hippos, and even the thought-to-be-extinct beisa oryx have survived and thrived. As Sudan rebuilds after more than 20 years of war that saw the deaths of some 2 million people, it faces balancing wildlife conservation with economic development; pastoralist refugees are finally returning to the region, and oil permits have already been given out in some migratory corridors. While many species survived the war, researcher Paul Elkan wonders: “Can they survive the peace?”