"This could represent the biggest migration of large mammals on Earth," said conservationist J. Michael Fay in amazement while flying over Southern Sudan earlier this year. To the scientist's surprise, despite decades of war, wildlife east of the Nile River have not only survived but thrived. The question now is can the animals survive the resource development that quickly followed a 2005 peace agreement.
Aerial surveys conducted by Fay and his team for the New York based Wildlife Conservation Society, WCS, confirm 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 because of war.
After years of fighting northern Sudan, Southern Sudan formed an autonomous region as part of a 2005 peace agreement, and will hold a referendum on independence in 2011.
The Wildlife Conservation Society is calling for the creation of a Sudano-Sahel Initiative, based on the model of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, to foster wise natural resource management in a region of great global conservation value and strategic importance beset by conflict over resources.