A wildlife protection group has announced that the elephant population in South Sudan could be eliminated in the next five years if poaching is not controlled.
South Sudan, which became an independent nation last year after decades of civil war, has less than 5,000 elephants left according to the United States-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). This is a stark decrease in comparison to the 130,000 elephant population just 26 years ago in 1986.
“Within the next five years the elephants in South Sudan could completely be gone with the current rates of poaching,” Paul Elkan, South Sudan Director at WCS told reporters. He further revealed that the price of ivory was quadrupled over the past few years courtesy of the demand from China and 2011 marked the worst year for poaching with 24 tons of ivory seized.
Black market trade in wildlife and wildlife products is worth an estimated $10 billion per year, according to the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking, a group of government and wildlife organizations.
And it’s not just the elephants. Elkan shares that the southern rebel army massacred wildlife during the 1983-2005 civil war against the Khartoum government in the north and in turn, devastated the elephant population, placed the nation’s giraffes on the brink of extinction and could have already eliminated the zebras and rhinos.
Conservationists fear that poaching and trafficking will become easier due to road construction, and prosecuting offenders will become difficult since South Sudan does not have any laws to try them. That said, the government has plans to pass an anti-poaching legislation in the middle of 2013 and is currently reviewing a 30-year land lease with the United Arab Emirates-based Al Ain National Wildlife.