The Largest Land Mammal Migration on Earth

South Sudan plays host to one of nature's most spectacular events: the Great Nile Migration, the largest land mammal migration on Earth. The Boma Badingilo Jonglei Landscape (BBJL) in the southeast of South Sudan, is the setting for this incredible journey, which sees the seasonal movement of approximately six million antelope, including white-eared kob, Mongalla gazelle, tiang and reedbuck which migrate across the landscape into Gambella National Park in Ethiopia every year.

A Vision for the Future

In partnership with the South Sudan’s government and communities, African Parks has embarked on a collective conservation effort to safeguard this vast landscape and its wildlife populations. Understanding the deep connection of the local communities to the land and the migration of animals, we can better conserve the wildlife and landscape for the benefit of the people of South Sudan and future generations. Through a long-term management agreement, the protection of this critically important ecosystem will now be ensured so that it can deliver ecological and socio-economic sustainability for the ongoing security of the people and wildlife who call the BBJL home.

Join us in protecting the largest land mammal migration on Earth.

Together, we can protect this unique migration and the livelihoods it supports, ensuring a stable and sustainable future for the communities and wildlife that depend on this landscape.


Surveying the Savanna: Discoveries from BBJL Aerial Survey

Migration Landscape is one of the largest intact savannah floodplain ecosystems on Earth. It forms a vital part of the White Nile floodplain system which is essential for the health of this enormously important river system and its encompassing wetlands.

The BBJL aerial survey is the first comprehensive survey of this region. This historic survey has highlighted the scale of the migration, and aided in informing strategic conservation efforts to ensure sustainability for both the wildlife and people who depend on the landscape.

The survey has revealed that the BBJL is home to the largest population of migratory antelope on Earth. This includes significant numbers of white-eared kob, tiang, Mongalla gazelle, and Bohor reedbuck.

 A comparison with surveys done in the 1980s shows that there have been declines in most sedentary species - such as elephant and giraffe - which need year-round access to water and which do not exhibit a migratory pattern, further highlighting the need for proper protection of the landscape outside Boma and Badingilo national parks.

Community and Conservation

The support and engagement of local communities is key © Marcus Westberg

The success of wildlife conservation in South Sudan, is deeply intertwined with the support of and engagement with local communities. Numerous ethnic groups fiercely hold territory within BBJL, including the Dinka, Murle, Anyuak, Jie, Toposa, Nyangatum, Nuer, Mudari, Bari, Lokyoya, Madi, Lolubo, Ari, Lopit, Lata, Boya, and Didinga. Each of these communities has deep cultural traditions, and livelihood activities that are firmly embedded and heavily reliant on wildlife and the vast landscapes they inhabit.

The commercialisation and illegal extraction of resources pose a significant threat to the sustainability of the wildlife migration, and the livelihoods of local communities who rely on the landscape for their livelihoods and cultural wellbeing.

Conservation initiatives supported by communities have become a cornerstone of our conservation efforts, ensuring that the guardianship of this incredible migration and its supporting ecosystem provides ongoing sustainability for the livelihoods of local people. By engaging with the local communities, we can build partnerships for effective conservation that is mutually beneficial for the landscape as a whole and all who rely on it.

From the White Nile to Gambella

The migration journeys from the South Sudan savannah across the border into Gambella National Park, Ethiopia, crossing many diverse habitats and ecosystems including the White Nile river, which is a lifeline for both wildlife, and communities.

Witnessing the largest mammal migration on the planet is a powerful reminder of both the beauty and fragility of our natural world. Together with the Government of South Sudan, African Parks, along with partners, is working to ensure the sustainability and survival of this migration for the benefit of many generations to come.

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Understanding the BBJL Aerial Survey

This historical aerial survey brings us a step closer to ensuring greater protection of this entire ecosystem for the benefit of the people who rely on it, as well as the long-term survival of the wildlife within it.

During the survey, a 122,774 km2 contiguous survey block was flown, covering the presently known range of the four main migratory antelope in the BBJL, including areas to the north east of Akobo, previously never surveyed and which showed huge numbers of white-eared kob. Combined with data from 251 tracking collars on animals of various species, these findings provide in-depth insight into the region's ecological dynamics for effective conservation management strategies.

The estimates indicate that the BBJL contains the largest population of migratory antelope on Earth, including white-eared kob, tiang, Mongalla gazelle, and Bohor reedbuck. Altogether, these four species total approximately six million (5,896,373 ± 909,495) individual antelope.

Herd of Tiang © Marcus Westberg

The results have been peer-reviewed by Dr Kevin Dunham to validate the findings. During the survey - which ran from 28th of April to 15th of May 2023, two cameras were fixed to two planes and programmed to take a photograph every two seconds, in addition to a team of observers in the aircraft. This resulted in more than 330,000 images taken over the entire survey. Using special software, a team of five University of Juba graduates counted the animals in 64 transects with a total of 59,718 photos annotated.

The aerial survey is not just about counting animals. It is a comprehensive assessment of wildlife, livestock, and human activity, to provide a clear picture of the health of the local ecosystem. The data collected during the survey will be instrumental in developing strategic plans for wildlife management, protected area development, and natural resource stewardship across the area.

This survey was undertaken through a collaboration between the Government of South Sudan, the South Sudanese Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism and African Parks with support from The Wilderness Project. Our donors include Elephant Crisis Fund (ECF), Fondation Segré, Hempel Foundation, Rainforest Trust, Wildlife Conservation Network's Lion Recovery Fund (LRF), Wyss Foundation, and the European Union which have sustained management operations and infrastructure of Boma and Badingilo national parks thus far. 

Join the Journey

We invite you to join us in this journey. Together, we can protect the natural wonder of the GNML, support the vital conservation work being done to protect it, and contribute to a legacy that will benefit generations to come.

Your Support Goes a Long Way

At African Parks we are working everyday to protect Africa's last wild landscapes. By donating to us, you are making a difference and are giving hope to people and wildlife across the continent.


Join Us

We invite you to join us on this journey. Learn more about the important conservation and community work on the ground to protect this phenomenal migration and the livelihoods it supports.