South Sudan says 500 elephants may have died during two-year war

At least 500 elephants may have been killed during South Sudan’s two-year civil war, including 15 slaughtered in one day last month, the African nation’s wildlife service said.

The oil-producing country’s elephants, which numbered 5,000 in a 2012 nationwide survey, are still at heavy risk from poaching, said Major-General Philip Chol Majak, the agency’s director-general, a year after warning of severe losses to wildlife caused by civilians, rebels and government forces. The death toll is based on reconnaissance flights and the service will perform a full headcount when conflict subsides, he said Monday in an interview in the capital, Juba.

In the latest incident, 15 elephants were killed in wildlife corridors between northern Unity and Warrap states in late January by youths who sought to sell the ivory, Majak said. The local office of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society said there are a minimum of 2,500 elephants in the country, describing the crisis as “very alarming.”

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and almost 2 million others have fled their homes since South Sudan’s war began in December 2013. WCS has previously warned of the conflict’s “tragic, horrific impact” on antelopes and said fighting threatened to push elephants “ever closer towards national extinction.”

Army spokesman Marko Mayol said the military has received verbal complaints but no report from the state wildlife agency detailing allegations against its troops. “The report must come to the leadership and this is when the leadership can address this issue,” he said Tuesday by phone. “As we talk now, no comprehensive report is on the table of the chief of general staff.”

 – Bloomberg