Biodiversity Conservation

Boma and Badingilo national parks are part of a wilderness that spans as much as 200,000 square kilometres in South Sudan and neighbouring Ethiopia. The potential for biodiversity conservation across this region is enormous, but so too are the challenges. After decades of civil unrest, there was minimal infrastructure, with limited access across the landscape and until recently, very little was known about the status of wildlife species across the two parks. The task of establishing an effective approach to manage biodiversity in a largely unknown landscape has been mammoth.

Boma National Park spans 19,189 km2 and falls within the Somali-Maasai and Sudano-Guinean biomes. The southern part of Boma is semi-arid, where the average rainfall ranges between 300 and 500 mm and the soils are generally shallow and infertile. The vegetation is characterised by extensive short grasslands and acacia bush. The eastern part of the park is covered with woodland dominated by Combretum and Ficus species, and the western flat plains are composed of open grassland.

A number of rivers run through or around Boma and several wetlands exist in and around it. These habitats are largely seasonal, although permanent waterholes exist that act as dry-season refuges for many species, as well as for human activity. The Juom Swamp is the largest of the wetlands and is found in the park’s northern sector. Besides being a reliable source of water, it supports high-value green biomass during the dry season, making it an important dry-season range for wildlife, particularly white-eared kob.

Badingilo National Park spans 8,935 km2 and falls within the Sudano-Guinean biome. Originally established in 1986 for the conservation of black rhino (today it is locally extinct), Badingilo was once renowned for its diversity of large mammals including elephant, buffalo and lion. Despite its turbulent history, millions of white-eared kob, Mongalla gazelle, tiang, and Bohor reedbuck still move across the land, while sedentary species are found in lower numbers.

Monitoring and Surveys

To protect the area’s wildlife, their numbers and movements must be understood, and sustainable management practices devised. Over 2023 and 2024, some 251 animals from 13 species were fitted with GPS tracking collars including white-eared kob, tiang, Mongalla gazelle, reedbuck, eland, Nile lechwe, cheetah, spotted hyaena, lion, elephant, giraffe, oryx, and roan antelope.  

In addition, in 2023 the first comprehensive aerial survey took place of wildlife, livestock and human activity across the Boma Badingilo Jonglei Landscape . The surveys established accurate estimates of wildlife population numbers, revealing that Boma-Badingilo is home to wildlife in numbers far greater than previously predicted. As announced by the President in June 2024, South Sudan is home to the largest land mammal migration on Earth, estimated at approximately six million antelope.

A comparison with surveys done in the 1980s shows a large decline in sedentary mammals that do not migrate and need year-round access to water. The results of this survey combined with data collected from the collared animals provide crucial information to develop effective conservation strategies that will ensure long-term sustainability for both the wildlife and the people who depend on this important ecosystem.

Read a detailed account of this mass wildlife monitoring project here.

Conservation Law Enforcement

The challenges facing Boma-Badingilo are diverse. In Badingilo there are direct threats to species and habitat, while its proximity to the national capital, Juba, and the town of Bor exacerbates bushmeat poaching and coal burning in populated areas. African Parks is working with local communities to better understand the landscape, to identify increasing threats and to put in place good land-use management plans to ensure sustainable resource use. Key among these is establishing the groundwork for effective park management. This includes creating a well-trained and equipped conservation law enforcement team to carry out monitoring, patrols and surveillance. Importantly, all these efforts are coordinated through close collaboration with local communities and regional authorities.

Rangers have been recruited from local communities, and have undergone the Basic Field Rangers course as well as specialised training to ensure the parks’ wildlife and ecosystems are protected. A control room has been established in Juba to monitor all movements throughout the parks. Communications have been set up in key locations, ensuring regular contact across the area.

Four TANGO (Transhumance Sensitisation Officers) teams have been employed to increase conservation awareness among communities. This approach is based on our experience in Chinko in the Central African Republic. The biggest impact will come from understanding the various ethnic groups in the landscape, learning and engaging with them in order to establish the most sustainable approach to conservation in the area.