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Thursday, 20 January 2011

A new Sudan?

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 per cent 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.

Home to spectacular 1.3million antelope migration
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 Sudan for wildlifein 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.

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