JUBA, -- South Sudan's Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism on Wednesday launched a major conversation initiative in a bid to combat increased poaching and destruction of wildlife habitat.

The ministry's spokesman Khamis Adieng Ding said the new campaign seeks to educate the public about benefits of conserving nature and also to reduce widespread poaching of endangered species such as elephants and rhinos.

"Wildlife resource is our national heritage. It should be conserved, protected and managed for the current and future generations," Ding said.

As part of the drive, all mobile subscribers in the South Sudan have started receiving short messages encouraging them to protect wildlife resources in the conflict-hit country.

South Sudan is home to a variety of endangered species of both flora and fauna that are scattered throughout the Sudd wetland, one of the largest tropical swamps in the world.

Species such as elephants, rhinos and pangolins have declined in recent years following decades of civil conflict and lack of conservation efforts by the government -- with conservationists warning early this year that the country's elephant population has dropped to fewer than 2,500 from 10,000.

Ding said the current South Sudanese civil war impeded law enforcement officers to patrol the protected areas, leaving the survival of wild animals on the mercy of local communities.

He said strong laws and policies are required in South Sudan to combat poaching and also develop to enhance efforts for tourism development.

"If the security situation doesn't allow us to be in the field, then we have to prepare ourselves to work with the communities. We are almost done with the wildlife policy to reduce the threat to our wildlife resources," Ding added.

Source: Nam News Network

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