JUBA, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan wildlife officials said two soldiers have been arrested with over 500 kilograms of bush meat seized from two army vehicles near the capital, Juba.
Thomas Sebit, deputy spokesman for the ministry of wildlife conservation and tourism, told Xinhua on Wednesday that the suspected poachers were arrested over the weekend during an anti-poaching operation east of Juba.
Sebit said the unnamed army officers are in police custody and they would be taken to court and charged under the country's wildlife crimes law.
South Sudan military spokesman Lul Ruai, confirmed that two vehicles belonging to the South Sudan People's Defense Forces were detained by wildlife officials, adding that the army would coordinate with the conservation agency to combat poaching.
"It is an indication that maybe a few elements (military) are involved in poaching, but it is not sanctioned by the army leadership," Lul told Xinhua by phone.
In March 2018, South Sudan banned all forms of wildlife hunting and commercial trade in wildlife products such as skin, meat, fur, bird feathers, among others.
The measure was aimed at tackling rampant poaching in the country's six national parks and 13 game reserves, but it has so far yielded little benefits as poaching continues unabated.
Sebit said the anti-poaching war was affected by conflict and lack of resources to enforce the ban.
"It is very difficult to fight these poachers because we don't have mobility and even enough guns and forces to fight them," Sebit added.
War-torn South Sudan is host to one of the world's largest mammal migrations, according a U.S.-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), but there has been a worrisome reduction in many of the country's wildlife populations since the 1970s.
The agency attributed the decline to food insecurity and economic hardship that has increased illegal trade in wildlife and also threatened survival of rare wildlife species such as elephants and Rhinos.
According to official figures from the wildlife ministry, population of giraffes declined massively to 300 from about 100,000 while the population of elephants declined from 80,000 to fewer than 2,500 between 1970s to 2013.
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