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South Sudan Arrests Suspected Poachers

FILE - A prison guard walks along a perimeter wall at a prison in Rumbek, Lakes State, South Sudan, Feb. 19, 2014.
FILE - A prison guard walks along a perimeter wall at a prison in Rumbek, Lakes State, South Sudan, Feb. 19, 2014.

South Sudan’s Minister of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism Rizik Zachariah said Wednesday his office has opened a police case against 39 suspected poachers arrested last week at Bandingilo National Park.

Zachariah told VOA's South Sudan in Focus in an exclusive interview that the suspects and their accomplices are being questioned at the Gumbo police station and will be tried in a special court.

He said the suspects were arrested in Eastern Equatoria and Central Equatoria states last week, adding that authorities are determined to protect the country’s game reserves.

"South Sudan is one of the countries which is gifted with abundance of wildlife species. What matters now is the conservational protection cooperation from the public, and let them understand that those are national resources and they need to be managed and protected by everybody," Zachariah told VOA.

He denied media reports that the county commissioner of Lafon was among the suspects in detention.

"The commissioner according to his version is that he was summoned to Juba —he and the chief and other guys — and they don’t have transportation means. That is why they preferred the option for using public transport. When our forces apprehended that vehicle, he was trapped inside, then they sorted out that the commissioner is not guilty," Zachariah said.

Lt. Gen. Khamis Adieng, director of General of Wildlife Services, condemned the poaching at Bandingilo National Park and elsewhere. He paraded dozens of suspects in front of reporters Monday in Juba.

"The suspects some of them are from the organized forces, some of them are from the South Sudan People Defense Forces, and we have been crying a lot. We met with the chief commando of the SSPDF and he promised and actually he wrote letters to all garrisons of the army, but it seems no ears were ready to listen to what the leadership is talking about," Adieng said.

South Sudan has six national parks: Bandingilo, Boma, Lantoto, Nimule, Shembe and Southern.

Adieng said anti-poaching operations will continue across several parts of the country during the dry season.

Authorities confiscated 3,000 kilograms of smoked game meat last week, Zachariah said. The suspects were detained between Mangala and Bandingilo National Park while transporting the meat in Toyota Land Cruisers.