Video of African elephant, taken at Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania.
From the New York Times in the USA:
By CARL ZIMMER
Published: June 12, 2007
The first aerial survey of southern Sudan in 25 years has revealed vast migrating herds, rivaling those of the Serengeti plains, that have managed to survive 25 years of civil war, the Wildlife Conservation Society and Southern Sudan will announce today at a news conference in New York.
J. Michael Fay, a conservationist at the Wildlife Conservation Society and explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, who has participated in the surveys, said in a telephone interview from Chad that southern Sudan’s herds of more than a million gazelle and antelope may even surpass the Serengeti’s herds of wildebeest, making the newly surveyed migration the largest on earth.
“It’s so far beyond anything you’ve ever seen, you can’t believe it,” Dr. Fay said. “You think you’re hallucinating.”
Southern Sudan, an area of about 225,000 square miles, sits between the Sahara and Africa’s belt of tropical forests.
Wildlife biologists have long known that its grasslands, woodlands and swamps were home to elephants, zebras, giraffes and other animals.
Before the civil war, an estimated 900,000 white-eared kob (a kind of antelope) had been seen migrating there.
But in 1983 wildlife research ground to a halt with the outbreak of civil war. …
They formed a gigantic column that stretched 30 miles across and 50 miles long.
“It was just solid animals the whole way,” Dr. Fay said.
The biologists estimated there were 1.3 million kob, tiang and gazelle in their survey area.
That is close to the size of migrating herds of wildebeest on the Serengeti, long considered the biggest migration of mammals.
But Dr. Fay and his colleagues suspected that because they were replicating prewar survey methods, their estimates were low.
New survey methods, such as digital photography, were likely to raise it above the Serengeti.
“My personal feeling is that it’s the biggest migration on earth,” Dr. Fay said, “but we just haven’t proved it yet.”
Biologists have even spotted oryx, which were thought to be extinct.
Southern Sudan used to be home to many zebras.
In the 1982 survey, scientists estimated that 20,000 were living in Boma National Park alone.
The Wildlife Conservation team found no zebras in Boma at all, and only a few elsewhere.
The scientists also observed that most species suffered badly in the western part of the region.
In 1981, about 60,000 buffalo lived in Southern Sudan National Park.
Now, Dr. Fay said, “Not one buffalo did we see.”
Geography may explain much of their results.
Poachers on horseback could ride into the western part of Southern Sudan, but the Nile River and a giant swamp called the Sudd proved to be an impenetrable shield protecting the eastern region of Southern Sudan.
Migrating animals also fared better than animals that stayed put year-round.
“Their wet-season refuge is very isolated, so even if they were heavily hunted in the dry season, they would have a buffer,” Dr. Elkan said.
See also here.
South Sudan: U.S. Government Inaugurates National Park Headquarters in Pristine Wildlife Area of Nation: here.
After war, wildlife returns to Sudan: here.
Southern Sudan’s Wildlife Treasure: here.
Like Chad and migratory birds: here.
Exploitation of wild mammals in South-west Ethiopia during the Holocene: here.