The Hidden Herds

Carl Zimmer in his excellent blog, The Loom:

04Nine years ago I had the opportunity to visit southern Sudan. With a few other reporters, I flew from Nairobi to Lokichokio in northern Kenya, where we prepared to cross the border. A man took our passports and told us he’d hold onto them till we got back. We climbed into another plane loaded with medical supplies and took off again, into a land that had been at war for 15 years.

I found the place eerie in its quiet. We were far from the front lines, and so you could forget that there was a war going on, except for the occasional word of government planes in the air, potentially carrying bombs. The war made itself known where we were in subtler, but no less devastating ways. Sleeping sickness, which had been brought under control in the years before the war, was on the rise again, and only a few doctors were braving the war to try to stop it. For more on that particular story, see this piece I wrote in 1998 for Discover, which I adapted for my book, Parasite Rex. Also, the doctors later published a paper describing the outbreak you can read for free here. Everyone who came on that trip was struck by the beauty of the place, the strange fields of termite mounds, the wooded slopes. But we could never imagine how many people could ever come to see it.

Things have changed. The civil war in southern Sudan is over. Sleeping sickness has been reined in, although not wiped out. And, as I report in today’s New York Times, wildlife biologists have conducted the first aerial survey of southern Sudan.

More here.