A great spectacle

Ed Pilkington

A column of migrating animals, 80 km long and 48 km across, was seen in Sudan.

SCIENTISTS BELIEVE they have discovered the biggest migration of wild animals on earth, with an aerial survey revealing vast herds of gazelle and antelope on the move in southern Sudan in a region that was assumed to have been denuded of its wildlife by years of civil war.

The Wildlife Conservation Society, together with the autonomous government of South Sudan, announced at a press conference in New York on Tuesday that a study of the area's fauna had revealed an abundance of antelope, particularly of white-eared kob, in breathtaking numbers. Flying over an area of about 590,000 sq km, scientists witnessed a column of animals in their seasonal migration through grasslands and swamps that was 80 km long and 48 km across.

They estimated the population of the white-eared kob a chestnut coloured and medium-sized antelope at about 800,000. Add to that other species including the topi and the Mongalla gazelle, and the total number of migratory animals is put at 1.3 million, approaching the scale of one of the world's greatest natural events, the Serengeti migration of wildebeest and zebra across east Africa.

"This could represent the biggest migration of large mammals on earth," said Michael Fay, a field scientist with the WCS, who conducted the survey. "I have never seen wildlife in such numbers, not even when flying over the mass migrations of the Serengeti."

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007

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