Two elephants walk at the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya, Aug. 28, 2017. (Xinhua/Lyu Shuai)
JUBA, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- Wildlife officials in South Sudan have expressed concerns over the rising cases of elephant poaching in the country's game parks.
Thomas Sebit, deputy spokesman for the Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism, told Xinhua on Wednesday that over 20 elephants are estimated to have been killed in the East African nation this year alone.
Sebit said airport authorities last Sunday seized 24 pieces of illegal elephant tusks destined for the capital of Juba from the eastern town of Pibor.
He added that conservationists have made seizures of at least 46 pieces of illegal ivory across South Sudan in the past four months alone, showing a drastic increase in ivory trafficking in the war-torn country
"This is real destruction. We must stop this killing of our animals," Sebit said.
The minister blamed the rise in poaching on armed groups operating in the country's national parks.
"We need collective efforts to protect our animals because we are lucky that we still have wildlife after the long civil war. We protected them during the war and now again we are resorting to killing them," he said.
South Sudan has the world's second largest animal migration and is considered a good place for ecotourism, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
The East African country is also known for its vast swamp region of the Sudd, sometimes referred to as one of the largest wetlands in the world hosting about 300 species of birds.
However, the tourism industry made up only 1.8 percent of South Sudan's GDP, WTTC said in 2013.