A record-breaking migration: 6 million antelopes journey across South Sudan

The most comprehensive aerial census of South Sudan's wildlife found around 6 million antelope, a figure that would make it the largest land mammal migration in the world. But be careful: poaching is on the rise

An awe-inspiring spectacle of approximately 6 million antelopes migrating across the vast grasslands of South Sudan has been identified as the largest terrestrial mammal migration in the world. The aerial view of the so-called Great Nile Migration is nothing short of breathtaking.

Unprecedented survey by african parks

This remarkable finding comes from a survey conducted by the non-profit organization African Parks, in collaboration with the South Sudanese government. The survey, which took place over two weeks last year, spanned about 46,000 square miles (120,000 square kilometers) across two national parks and surrounding areas. It involved nearly 60,000 photographs and tracking over a hundred collared animals.

Migratory species face threats

While the results are extraordinary, experts warn that these animals face increasing threats from commercial poaching in a country awash with weapons and lacking strong law enforcement.

“Saving the last great wildlife migration on the planet is incredibly important,” said environmental scientist Mike Fay, who led the survey. “There is so much evidence that global ecosystems are collapsing, resources are severely degrading, and it is causing a massive upheaval on the planet.”

Cultural and environmental implications

Many ethnic groups in the Boma Badingilo Jonglei (BBJL) area, such as the Dinka, Murle, Anyuak, and others, have deep cultural traditions and livelihoods that are closely tied to the wildlife and vast landscapes they inhabit. Unmanaged exploitation of this resource could trigger the collapse of migratory patterns, ecological integrity, and livelihoods.

The extent of the migration

South Sudan boasts six national parks and a dozen game reserves covering more than 13% of the country’s land. The migration stretches from east of the Nile in the Badingilo and Boma parks to neighboring Ethiopia, covering an area roughly the size of the U.S. state of Georgia. It includes four primary antelope species: the white-eared kob (about 5 million), the tiang, the Mongalla gazelle, and the bohor reedbuck.

Decline of non-migratory species

Although the survey confirmed an increase in some animal populations since a smaller study in 2010, it also revealed a “catastrophic” decline in most non-migratory species over the past 40 years, such as hippos, elephants, and warthogs. This alarming trend could indicate a critical point of no return.

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