Thursday, 5 November 2015

The great migration

The mass movement of at least a million antelopes - one of the greatest wildlife spectacles in the world - is endangered by South Sudan's bloodshed.

By David Blair, Tuesday 27 October 2015

The landscape of South Sudan has turned a verdant green under the annual rains, beginning one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on Earth. At least one million antelopes are now converging on a vast savannah east of the White Nile.

This mass movement of two species - the tiang and the white-eared kob – rivals the wildebeest herds of the Serengeti as the biggest migration of land animals in the world.

During South Sudan’s long war for independence from Khartoum, no outsider could be sure whether this migration was still happening. After the fighting ended in 2005, aerial surveys discovered that vast herds had somehow survived – and the antelopes were still travelling the same routes they had used for millennia.

Yet South Sudan is now enduring another war and its unique migration is threatened all over again. At present, about a million white-eared kobs are moving westwards from their dry season habitat in Boma National Park to the plains near the White Nile. They will be joined in Bandingilo National Park by 125,000 tiangs, which migrate southwards from their dry season refuge in the swamps of the Sudd region.

“This is one of the great wonders of the world,” said Paul Elkan, the head of the South Sudan programme for the Wildlife Conservation Society. “The country’s wildlife is one of those special features of South Sudan which still arouses some hope.”

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