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EcoAlert: World's Newest Nation to Emerge as Wildlife EcoTourism Hotspot


 On Friday, South Sudan became the world's newest nation. As its' population celebrates in the new capital of Juba, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) is urging the newborn nation, home to the world's second largest land migration, to protect its ecosystems and rich wildlife in order to build a sustainable and forward-looking economy. South Sudan boasts an abundance of African megafauna that is becoming increasingly rare and endangered throughout much of the continent.

Every year 1.3 million antelope, including white-eared kob, tiang antelope, Mongalla gazelle, and reedbuck, migrate across savanna and wetlands in South Sudan. The migration was only discovered in 2007 after decades of civil war had kept scientists out. Wildlife experts found that much of the wildlife survived the region's political turmoil, including buffalo, giraffe, lion, bongo, chimpanzee, and some 8,000 elephants.

"South Sudan’s wildlife treasures provide an opportunity for a diverse economy based on eco-friendly tourism in the world’s newest nation. WCS is committed to working with the government of South Sudan and USAID to help manage natural resources in a sustainable way and establish protected areas. Wildlife conservation must play a vital role in the economic future of South Sudan," Steve Sanderson, WCS President and CEO, said in a press release.

10986790 According to WCS, the presence of African mammals in abundance could allow the nation to become a popular ecotourist destination. In 2009, nearby Kenya made $1 billion from tourism while Tanzania brought in $1.2 billion. Tourism, as opposed to large-scale resource extraction, is also sustainable over the long-term. Currently 98 percent of South Sudan's revenue comes from one thing: oil.

The new nation, writes Jeremy Hance of, is facing an array of massive challenges, including ack of infrastructure, deep poverty, and the fear of continuing conflicts with the north.
Wildlife migrations are endangered and collapsing worldwide, especially large mammal migrations. The pronghorn migration in the US is on its last legs; the saiga antelope migration in Central Asia has collapsed over the past two decades; the caribou migration near the Arctic is plunging and even the Serengeti migration is threatened by road-building plans in Tanzania.

Image below: Tiang migration across Boma-Jonglei-Equatoria Landscape, South Sudan. Photo credit: © Paul Elkan/Wildlife Conservation Society.


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I doubt this new nation will be able to live in peace due to the nature of its more aggressive neighbours to the north.

Unfortunately the near term risks overshadowing the longer term. Uganda recently enjoyed a *major* oil, natural gas, uranium, and helium discovery. The rift valley region from S Sudan through Tanzania are also suspected of harboring undiscovered rare earth metals. It's going to be a hard sell to turn away Indian and Chinese "development" (prospecting) efforts with the developers offering to work at their own expense and provide funds in light of the poverty in the region... Richard Leakey is correct that these countries have a right to address their development as well as attempting to preserve their natural eco bounties - the real question is how to do both. And we, in our Internet cafes sipping latte, cannot simply demand they neglect their human concerns - we need to help with more than proclaimations and edicts.

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