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Ravaged by War and Famine: Sudan’s Conservation Struggles

Tucked away by the Ethiopian border, Sudan’s Dinder National Park boasts the country’s most diverse wildlife, but rangers face a daily battle to protect it as human encroachment mounts. Spread over more than 10,000 square kilometres (3,800 square miles), 400 kilometres (250 miles) southeast of Khartoum, the park is Sudan’s biggest and abuts Ethiopia’s Alatash National Park. Sandwiched between the vast grasslands of the Sahel and the forests of the Ethiopian highlands, the park boasts a variety of habitats that have made it a haven for wildlife. Freshwater lakes dot the park’s woodlands and savannah, making it an important flyway for migratory birds as well. But in recent decades, the population has soared in the villages that dot the park and its surrounding buffer zone, creating huge pressure for new land to grow crops. And as cattle herders’ traditional grazing lands have been ploughed up, they, in turn, have increasingly encroached on the park in search of pasture. Hungry villagers often harvest wild honey from the park’s woods, lighting fires to create smoke to ward off the bees, in breach of park rules. By day, visitors can see African buffalo and several species of gazelle as well as an array of birdlife, both resident and migratory. Despite all the challenges, the reserve has “remained pristine and managed to maintain its wilderness,” Mohamed boasts.