Media Availability: Southern Sudan Referendum: Oil, Water, and Wildlife
- Media Availability: WCS President and CEO Steven Sanderson
- WCS says vote for independence offers historic opportunity for conservation and sustainable natural resource management
- WCS is an official partner with the government of Southern Sudan on wildlife conservation issues
NEW YORK (January 10, 2011) – The following op-ed by WCS President and CEO Dr. Steven Sanderson was published this weekend:
This Sunday, more than three million people in South Sudan are expected to vote in a referendum to create a new nation in Eastern Africa. As they do so, there is a historic opportunity, perhaps unprecedented, for wildlife conservation, sustainable natural resource management, and environmentally-friendly ecotourism to be integrated into the nation-building process.
Land-use issues loom large in the election. Vast oil deposits in southern Sudan account for roughly 98 percent of the region’s current revenues and will come under the South’s management if it becomes a separate country. The White Nile flows through southern Sudan toward Khartoum, adding water to the region’s resource issues.
The hidden jewel in this unique landscape is its stunning wildlife. Before civil war broke out in 1983, southern Sudan boasted some of the most spectacular and important wildlife populations in Africa and the world’s second-largest wildlife migration – of some 1.3 million antelope. Large populations of buffalo, antelope, elephants, and chimpanzees were neglected and presumed lost during the two-decade war.
At the request of the provisional government of South Sudan, the Wildlife Conservation Society surveyed the country for wildlife in 2007, thanks to funding from USAID and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The magnificent antelope migration and vast tracts of savannas, wetlands, and woodlands remained largely intact.
The government’s task now is to establish conservation and sustainable natural resource management as part of the region’s development strategy.
The case for conservation is clear: the protection of parkland and wildlife is a rallying point for South 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 South 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.
A sound conservation and resource management agenda will secure centuries-old wildlife migrations, along with great savannas and wetlands, for all of humankind. Just as important, it will enable the people and Government of South Sudan to move toward a free and stable democratic nation.
The Wildlife Conservation Society is an official partner with the government of Southern Sudan and provides technical assistance on conservation of key landscapes.
In 2007, WCS conservationists confirmed the existence of more than 1.2 million white-eared kob, tiang antelope, and Mongalla gazelle in Southern Sudan, where wildlife was thought to have vanished as a result of decades-long conflict. Despite the war, some species of wildlife in Southern Sudan had not only survived but thrived east of the Nile River in numbers that rival those of the Serengeti.
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The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.
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