Published: November 2010

Sudan's Wildlife Herds

Sudan Elephants Ash

The Lost Herds of Southern Sudan

Sudan’s civil war ended in 2005. Peace brought the welcome discovery that the south still teems with Africa’s iconic animals.

By Matthew Teague
Photograph by George Steinmetz

Not long ago in Juba, in an old colonial building with cracked walls and fitful electricity, two former military men—Lt. Gen. Fraser Tong and Maj. Gen. Philip Chol Majak—were explaining the situation.

"Organized gangs, maybe 50 men, are coming in on horseback," Tong said. "They're targeting elephants and the bigger ungulates. They dry the meat and keep the ivory and transport it on camelback."

Tong is the undersecretary for wildlife in semi-autonomous southern Sudan, based in Juba, the capital. Majak is a senior staffer, a wildlife field commander whose army unit was famous for shooting down MiG jets with shoulder-fired missiles during Sudan's latest civil war, which began in 1983. A cease-fire ended that conflict five years ago, but now Majak is fighting a new war. "We have to protect these animals," he said.

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