NAIROBI, Kenya — Last year GlobalPost reported on the surprising discovery of one of the world's largest animal migrations in southern Sudan, then a soon-to-be-independent country that had only emerged from a hugely damaging decades-long civil war a few years earlier.
The story showed how by protecting its remaining wildlife South Sudan (as its now known) could attract tourists and help diversify its economy away from a near total reliance on oil exports. Reporting this story from Boma National Park made a refreshing change from all the politics, warlike rhetoric and worrying divisions that threaten to topple the new nation.
So it was great to hear that last week the Wildlife Conservation Society and the government of South Sudan have opened the new park headquarters in Boma, a huge national reserve in Jonglei State where much of the recent tit-for-tat ethnic violence has been carried out. The HQ and the wider conservation program are funded by USAID.
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Speaking at the opening ceremony General Kuol Manyang Juuk, Governor of Jonglei State, said: “Wildlife is an abundant resource in South Sudan that we have to preserve and use as a source of income. Oil will one day finish, but tourism will continue forever if we maintain our wildlife."
WCS South Sudan Director Dr Paul Elkan described the opening as “another major step toward establishing a functioning network of national parks and reserves across South Sudan, which will provide protection for the country’s exceptional wildlife and great migrations, and provide a platform for creating partnerships to improve security—for the benefit of both wildlife and local communities."
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It is hoped that before too long the infrastructure will be in place to allow first tourists to go to Boma to see for themselves the spectacle of the antelope migration and in doing so help change the all too common perception of South Sudan as a place of nothing but strife.
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