WCS New York, John Delaney, 718-220-3275;

Stephen Sautner, 1-718-2203682;

WCS South Sudan Communications, +211 954053614;

Deep Concern for South Sudan’s Natural Resources – an Emerging Illegal Exploitation and Trafficking Crisis

Illegal charcoal production, gold mining, logging, ivory poaching, commercial bushmeat poaching, wildlife trafficking, and more expanding across South Sudan 

Elephant, giraffe, tiang, and other wildlife populations are under pressure, but there is still hope to secure surviving populations if immediate actions can be taken to halt poaching by armed groups

WCS urges the Transitional Government of National Unity peace partners, States, and local community representatives, to make natural resource governance, transparency, and management a top priority, including adopting a natural resource crisis action plan

WCS calls on SPLA Government forces, SPLA-In Opposition, Cobra Faction, other armed group forces, and civilians to halt all wildlife poaching and trafficking

JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN (March 2, 2016) –South Sudan’s wildlife and other natural resources are under immediate threat from an alarming expansion of illegal exploitation and trafficking, say conservationists working for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and other partners.

Scientific monitoring and investigations undertaken by WCS in cooperation with local partners over the past months have documented a sharp rise in illegal activities in various areas of South Sudan.  These cases include ivory poaching and trafficking, commercial bushmeat poaching and trafficking, illegal logging, gold mining, charcoal production, and more. 


These illegal activities are being perpetrated by local as well as international individuals and actors, including members of the various armed forces active in the country. 


While South Sudan makes progress towards fully implementing the peace agreement signed in August 2015, there is an urgent need for the Transitional Government of National Unity, State, and local stakeholders and international partners to work together to halt this exploitation crisis, secure the natural resource base for the future development of the country, and prevent further conflict.


Prior to the outbreak of war in December 2013, South Sudan’s extensive areas of untouched natural woodlands, forests, and savannas,  were home to wildlife populations including approximately 2,500 elephant, some several hundred giraffe (recent DNA analyses by WCS and Giraffe Conservation Foundation indicate that the Kordofan giraffe subspecies occurs west of the Nile River and Rothschild’s subspecies to the east), the endemic Nile Lechwe and white-eared kob (found only in South Sudan and neighboring southwestern Ethiopia), tiang, and Mongalla antelope migrations, wild dog, chimpanzee, and bongo populations.  


In addition, these areas support pastoralist livelihoods, fishing, non-timber forest products (including Gum Acacia, Shea, wild coffee) and important reserves of minerals and oil.  The national park and protected areas system being established contributes to the security of both local people and wildlife, serves for sound development planning, and creates local employment and livelihood opportunities. 


Over the past two years of armed conflict, the various armed forces across the country have been implicated in cases of large-scale wildlife poaching (both for consumption and commercial trafficking).  There has also been increased ivory trafficking registered both within the country and across its borders. 

Recent cases illustrate the illegal natural resource exploitation crisis which is unfolding in the country:  

·         On 13 February 2016, 19 SPLA soldiers and 11 civilians involved in commercial bushmeat poaching and trafficking were arrested by the Badingilo Park Wildlife Service with WCS support. Fifteen Ak47 rifles and 15 motorcycles were seized along with 21 sacks of dried bushmeat (representing as many as 62 antelopes) destined for commercial sale.

·         A  Cobra Faction soldier, was arrested in Boma Park on 29 August 2015 for attempting to traffic two ivory tusks (with an additional report of other Cobra Faction soldiers reportedly involved in trafficking ivory from Boma Park to Ethiopia). 

·          An incident, concerning a reported 4 ivory tusks transferred by a Cessna 208 caravan aircraft from Boma to Juba on 26 November 2015, is still under investigation.

·         A Sudanese from Darfur is implicated in illegal charcoal production in Boma Park and also involved in an ivory trafficking incident along with his colleague in early 2016.

·         An international entity (reported to be from the United Arab Emirates) with local complicity was found to be illegally exploiting gold inside Boma National Park in late 2015.

·         Expansion of unregulated charcoal production along the Juba-Bor road involving members of SPLA has been documented. 

·         Illegal logging has occurred in and around Southern National Park and Lantoto National Park (involving Ugandans in complicity with local South Sudanese) and further illegal logging has been reported in forest reserves in the Yambio area. 

These cases are being monitored and followed up on with legal proceedings according to the laws of South Sudan.

The impact of the conflict on the wildlife populations is currently being assessed.  Systematic surveys and aerial reconnaissance of wildlife, human activity (including detecting illegal poaching, mining, charcoal, etc..), and habitat in and around key protected areas across the country by WCS in cooperation with South Sudan Wildlife Service, were started in 2015 and are being continued over the coming months in early 2016.

There is cause for great concern for many vulnerable species in the country, particularly elephant, giraffe, and tiang populations.  However, WCS observations thus far have also confirmed that some of these wildlife populations have managed to survive in some areas, so there is still hope to protect these populations and halt the expanding poaching and trafficking pressures.

The surveys are documenting the human activity distributional changes as well as the expanded cases of illegal natural resource exploitation.  This work combined with ground based investigations are proving highly effective for detecting illegal natural resource exploitation activities and orienting law enforcement actions and efforts to secure the remaining resources.

During this time of transition from war to peace, South Sudan is at a critical juncture for its people and the natural resources they depend on for livelihoods and future development, says WCS. The country is highly vulnerable to slipping into a situation in which various individuals and groups take advantage of the governance vacuum to engage in illegal and unsustainable activities plundering and destroying the natural resource base.  This risks exacerbating corruption, armed and political conflict, and undermining future development, and stability in the country. 

WCS is calling on the Transitional Government of National Unity peace partners, States, community representatives, to make natural resource governance, transparency, and management a top national and local priority. A focussed natural resource crisis action plan should be designed, adopted, and fully implemented.  The armed forces SPLA, SPLA-IO, Cobra Faction, other armed groups, and civilians should be called upon to immediately halt their involvement in wildlife poaching and trafficking and other illegal natural resource exploitation and violators punished by law. 

Full implementation of all wildlife, forestry, mining and other environmental laws must be ensured. Sustainable peace and development will only become a reality if the nation’s natural assets are secured, conserved and sustainably utilised for the development of the country and all its citizens. 

WCS extends its sincere appreciation to USAID, GEF/UNDP, USFWS, Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Inc., Enlyst Fund, and other WCS donors for their continued support for conservation and sustainable natural resource management for peace and stabilization in South Sudan.

Chief Nyamakono of Nyat (eastern border of Boma Park) village, said: “We want to encourage development in the Boma area, but we will not accept any commercial development in any location inside the Boma National Park because it will destroy the migratory corridor of our white-eared kob.”

Michael Lopidia, WCS Deputy Director and Chief of Party Boma-Jonglei-Equatoria Landscape program, said: “Our field based monitoring efforts are showing that as the transition is made from war to peace there is rapid expansion of natural resource plundering by the armed forces and local and international entities.  It is crucial to reinforce and expand our conservation-security partnerships, anti-trafficking, and protected area management efforts to help secure the natural resources of South Sudan and prevent conflict.”

Jaden Tongun Emilio, Chairman Natural Resource Management Group of South Sudan said: “The situation of uncontrolled illegal logging, mining, poaching, charcoal trade, and other natural resource exploitation in the country is getting worse.  We need to work together at local, State, and National levels as part of the peace process to ensure that the foundation for future development of the country is secured through sound and transparent natural resource law enforcement and integrated management.” 

Dr. Cristián Samper, President & CEO, WCS, said: “The humanitarian crisis and expanding pressures on natural resources in South Sudan require redoubling of international and local efforts for the full implementation of the August 2015 peace agreement and securing the people, wildlife, and overall natural resource base of the country. Our work in South Sudan, as with our WCS programs in Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan, is demonstrating the critical contribution that conservation and protected area management can make to stabilization and projecting security, transparency and governance in conflict and post-conflict areas.”

Call for Action

  • WCS thanks and applauds the local communities, Community Based Organizations, and wildlife service partners for their continued efforts to protect and conserve the natural resources of South Sudan. 
  • WCS urges the Transitional Government of National Unity peace partners, States, and local community representatives, to make natural resource governance, transparency, and management a top priority as part of the peace agreement implementation process.
  • WCS calls on the SPLA Government, SPLA-In Opposition, Cobra Faction forces and all other armed groups in South Sudan to respect South Sudan’s wildlife protection laws and cease all wildlife poaching and trafficking.
  • WCS requests the Transitional Government of National Unity, State, and local leaders, SPLA and SPLA-IO, Cobra faction and other armed groups to grant and facilitate full and unrestricted access for conservation and natural resource management activities to be extended to all areas in the country to monitor and enforcement the respect of wildlife, forestry, mining, and other natural resource laws.
  • WCS appeals to the Transitional Government of National Unity peace partners to adopt a crisis action plan to halt natural resource plundering and trafficking and secure South Sudan’s vulnerable wildlife populations and natural resource base. 
  • To the general public of South Sudan, WCS asks that each citizen support and respect the enforcement of the nation’s wildlife laws including the complete protection of elephants and giraffe throughout the country.  We ask all citizens to follow the wildlife law which prohibits buying, carving, wearing, or trading ivory and that they alert authorities of any cases of elephant poaching or ivory trafficking and other violations of South Sudan’s wildlife laws. 
  • WCS calls upon all international and local partners, agencies, NGOs, private companies and other actors working in South Sudan (including  the UN’s Mission, World Food Program, and High Commissioner for Refugees), and all other international entities to take strict measures to ensure that their activities respect the wildlife and other natural resource laws of South Sudan, and that they ensure that their infrastructures, vehicles, aircraft, and other equipment are not employed for wildlife and other natural resource illegal exploitation and/ or trafficking.
  • WCS urges international partners and donor community to invest in stabilization and development programs in South Sudan which contribute to conflict mitigation, sustainable livelihoods, natural resource management and conservation with local partners.
  • WCS urges U.S. State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to continue to support efforts to combat the transnational threat of wildlife poaching and wildlife trafficking in South Sudan and neighboring countries (DRC, CAR, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan).
  • WCS urges the U.S. Congress to enact   H.R. 2494, the Global Anti-Poaching Act and S. 2385, the Eliminate, Neutralize and Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Act to build wildlife law enforcement capacity to combat poaching and trafficking including developing effective cooperation with military and security institutions.

WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society)

MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in nearly 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: Follow: @WCSNewsroom. For more information: 347-840-1242.