Tracking antelopes to better protect migration corridor between Ethiopia and South Sudan

Bonn, June 28, 2012 – A new project investigates the spectacular mammal migration corridor between Ethiopia and the newly independent South Sudan. The Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority (EWCA) and the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) have launched the ‘Ecological Networks in Africa’ project, which aims to shed light on one of the largest known migration corridors worldwide.

Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, Acting Executive Secretary of the CMS, welcomed the project saying: “Migration is all about connectivity, not only of animals between countries, but also people between countries. It is my hope that this milestone project will bring both animals and people closer together.”

An estimated one million white-eared kobs, elephants and other large mammals migrate in the transboundary region between Gambella and Boma of Ethiopia and South Sudan, respectively, making this mass movements of animals one of Africa’s largest and most spectacular.

Two White-eared kobs have just been fitted with satellite collars to track their migration. More animals are to be collared in the coming year as part of the new project, which is funded by the Norwegian Government through its Ministry of Environment. Data from satellite collars and ground surveys will help identify patterns of movement and critical sites for this species. Such data will also be used to elaborate the Management Plan of Gambella National Park, which covers much of the Ethiopian part of the unique large mammal corridor. EWCA has already redesigned the boundaries of the National Park to encompass the migration. New zoning areas, suited to the kob’s home range and movements, will be established to grant protection in space and time. In parallel, the project will contribute to maintain the ecological value and socio-economic importance of mass animal migrations in the area. To this end law enforcement personnel will be trained.

In view of intensive agricultural development in the Gambella Region, the CMS project will help to gather very valuable information to ensure that the significant ecological services of the area will be preserved. Safeguarding ecological networks opens the door for the creation of a transboundary protected area.

Local communities will be sensitized for the unique migration corridor in the region and the immense value of an intact and highly dynamic ecosystem. They are expected to benefit through sustainable use and ecotourism. The potential for tourism, especially surrounding the spectacular kob migration, is considered to be significant. The potential economic benefitsassociated with wildlife watching within the migration corridor provide an important argument for the area’s protection. Generating alternative livelihoods is an important means of contributing to poverty alleviation in the future.

The effort of UNEP/ CMS ensures sustainability of the endeavours of the Omo Gambella Conservation Initiative Taskforce (OGCITF), which has been working since 2009 in establishing an integrated conservation system in the Gambella Region.

Notes to Editors:CMS - The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (UNEP/CMS) works for the conservation of a wide array of endangered migratory animals worldwide through the negotiation and implementation of agreements and action plans. CMS is a growing convention with special importance due to its expertise in the field of migratory species. At present, 116 countries are parties to the Convention. www.cms.int

For more information please contact: Veronika Lenarz, UNEP / CMS Secretariat, Public Information, T. +49 228 815-2409, vlenarz@cms.intCherie Enawgaw Beyene, Ecologist, Ethiopian Wildlife Conservation Authority, +251 (0) 911673737, e-mail: cherieenawgaw@gmail.com