The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) joined officials from the Republic of South Sudan and U.S. Government on March 8th to inaugurate Boma National Park Headquarters in Jonglei State in South Sudan, home to some of the world’s most spectacular wildlife migrations and vast intact ecosystems.
This critical infrastructure was built with funding from the U.S. Government through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) under the auspices of its partnership with the Republic of South Sudan and WCS. The new headquarters draws attention to the important role that protected areas can play in contributing to security, stability, eco-tourism development, and economic growth, especially in the more isolated regions of South Sudan.
The headquarters provides a secure office space and meeting area as a platform for overall park management, including wildlife law enforcement operations, community conservation partnerships and tourism development. The provision and training in the use and maintenance of high-frequency radios, along with other communications and transportation equipment, is enabling park staff to remain in close contact with local authorities and officials throughout the region and coordinate inter-agency conservation and security partnerships.
The USAID-funded Boma-Jonglei-Equatoria Landscape Program, implemented by WCS in cooperation with the Government of South Sudan, Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism, Jonglei, Eastern Equatoria, and Central Equatoria State and local governments, is working to establish the foundations for biodiversity conservation and land-use management. Its goal is to build capacity of government, civil society, and communities for natural resource management while reducing conflict and improving security. Livelihoods and economic opportunities are being enhanced through protected area management and initiating ecotourism to conserve this ecosystem and its magnificent wildlife, including the white-eared kob migration, elephants, giraffe, eland, shoebill, and other species.
South Sudan boasts some of the most spectacular pristine landscapes in Africa and supports one of the world’s largest terrestrial wildlife migration of some 1.3 million white-eared kob, tiang antelope, Mongalla gazelle, and reedbuck. In 2007, WCS and the government of South Sudan announced these mammal migrations had survived decades of war, and vast tracts of savannas and wetlands remained largely intact. Surveys and GPS collaring research by WCS and the Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism over the past years have revealed important transboundary linkages between the wildlife populations of Boma Park with neighboring Gambella region of Ethiopia. Discussions for development of a transboundary protected area between South Sudan and Ethiopia are underway.
Dr. Paul Elkan, Wildlife Conservation Society’s South Sudan Director, said: “The opening of Boma National Park headquarters is 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.”
Gen. 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.” He added that establishing and strengthening wildlife management and government presence here will help to bring general security to the area.
Hon. Gabriel Changson Chang, Minister for Wildlife Conservation and Tourism, noted that: “Boma National Park, with its wildlife and scenic attractions, is a key site for initial tourism development in South Sudan. The opening today of the park headquarters infrastructure marks a major step in protecting the wildlife resource and providing the foundation for attracting investors to develop tourism facilities at Boma National Park and throughout the country.”
U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan Susan D. Page said: “The development of this kind of infrastructure is part of the U.S. effort to support stability, economic prosperity, and sustainable development in South Sudan. The infrastructure will strengthen the government’s ability to provide security for the citizens of Jonglei and Eastern Equatoria States and will help protect one of the largest intact savannah ecosystems in East Africa.”