‘Forgotten forests’ of South Sudan: Camera traps capture first-ever pictures of forest elephants, giant pangolins in the country

  • War-ravaged South Sudan is home to a rich assortment of wildlife, researchers have found.

  • Many animals have never been recorded in the country before, they say.

  • These include the first-known record of critically endangered forest elephants in South Sudan, and first-known photographs of the African golden cat, water chevrotain, red river hog and giant pangolin.

War-ravaged South Sudan is home to a rich assortment of wildlife, researchers from Fauna & Flora International (FFI), Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, U.S., and South Sudan’s Wildlife Service have found.

For six months, the researchers surveyed over 8,000 square kilometers (~3,100 square miles) of the under-explored forests of Western Equatoria state of South Sudan using camera traps, and captured more than 20,000 photographs of a wide variety of wildlife. Many of these animals have never been recorded in the country before, even in the pre-independece era, they say.

These include the first-known record of forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis) in South Sudan.

“This is an extremely important finding,” DeeAnn Reeder, Professor of Biology at Bucknell University, said in a statement. “Forest elephants are Critically Endangered, and have declined dramatically over the last two decades. Finding them in South Sudan expands their known range — something that urgently needs further study because forest elephants, like their savannah cousins, are facing intense poaching pressure.”

Researchers say that these are the first record of Forest elephants in South Sudan. Photo credit: FFI and Bucknell-University.
Researchers say that these are the first record of Forest elephants in South Sudan. Photo credit: FFI and Bucknell-University.
Wildlife Ranger an Community Wildlife Ambassador setting camera-traps in South Sudan. Photo courtesy of FFI and Bucknell University.
Wildlife Ranger an Community Wildlife Ambassador setting camera-traps in South Sudan. Photo courtesy of FFI and Bucknell University.

The cameras also captured the first-known photographic records of the African golden cat (Profelis aurata), water chevrotain (Hyemoschus aquaticus), red river hog (Potamochoerus porcus) and giant pangolin (Manis gigantea) in South Sudan, according to the researchers.

The team also discovered the presence of many other wild animals like Chimpanzees, leopards, four species of mongoose, spotted hyenas, yellow-backed duiker, honey badgers, monitor lizards and western bongos in the West Equatorian forests.

While the camera trap survey results look promising, years of conflict in South Sudan could have had considerable impact on the country’s wildlife, researchers say.

“Experience has shown that wildlife and ecosystems often suffer enormously during and after conflict, and in periods of political instability, and this depletion of natural resources affects some of the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of society,” Adrian Garside of FFI said in the statement. “By maintaining our presence in-country, building good relationships with local communities and supporting our partners, we will find ourselves in a far better position to help people manage their resources sustainably, both now and in the future.”

Reeder and Garside have been working with the local communities of South Sudan since 2010 to help monitor and protect the country’s wildlife.

Giant-pangolin. Photo credit credit: FFI and Bucknell University.
Giant-pangolin. Photo credit credit: FFI and Bucknell University.
Western Bongo. Photo credit credit: FFI and Bucknell University.
Western Bongo. Photo credit credit: FFI and Bucknell University.
Chimpanzee mother and infant. Photo credit credit: FFI and Bucknell University.
Chimpanzee mother and infant. Photo credit credit: FFI and Bucknell University.
Forest buffaloes. Photo credit credit: FFI and Bucknell University.
Forest buffaloes. Photo credit credit: FFI and Bucknell University.
African golden cat. Photo credit credit: FFI and Bucknell University.
African golden cat. Photo credit credit: FFI and Bucknell University.
Leopard stalking in the grass. Photo credit credit: FFI and Bucknell University.
Leopard stalking in the grass. Photo credit credit: FFI and Bucknell University.
Honey Badger. Photo credit credit: FFI and Bucknell University.
Honey Badger. Photo credit credit: FFI and Bucknell University.
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