The Zambian Department of National Parks & Wildlife has announced plans for a cull of around 2000 Hippopotamus in the Luangwa River Valley in Eastern Province over the next five years, and beginning in May. The plan was originally mooted in 2016, ostensibly to control the spread of Anthrax in the valley, but was suspended after opposition from conservation groups, headed by the UK-based Born Free Foundation, who raised concerns that there was a lack of scientific evidence of a need for a cull, and the sale of tickets to hunt Hippopotamus to foreign trophy hunters via a South African company.
Hippopotamus in the Luangwa River. Zambia Tourism.
The Born Free Foundation has disputed claims by the Zambian Government that there is an over-population of Hippopotamus in the Luangwa River Valley, and that this leads to a higher risk of the spread of Anthrax. Furthermore they assert that trophy hunting of Hippopotamus can result in population instability, in which the loss of top males leads to increased breeding (and therefore a higher population) and increased aggression as younger males fight for supremacy, leading to more Human-Hippopotamus conflict.
Hippopotamus are listed as Vulnerable under the terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, with a global population of 115 000-130 000 individuals, spread across most of Sub-Saharan Africa. The species is considered to be threatened by human activities, including expanding urban development along waterways, the loss of feeding grounds to agriculture (Hippopotamus spend most of their time in water, but feed principally on land), damming rivers and other waterway modifications, and hunting, with illegal poaching becoming a problem in many areas as their teeth are used as a substitute for Elephant ivory.
Follow Sciency Thoughts on Facebook.