Banner image courtesy of IOL
Zambia has announced that it intends to reinstate a cull (killing) of 2,000 hippos along the Luangwa River Valley over the next five years, promoting the killing as a commercial opportunity for trophy hunters – (“South African hunters to shoot 2000 Zambian hippos, IOL, 1 June 2018“).
However, the hippo species (Hippopotamus amphibius) is classed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as vulnerable, with an estimated global population of around 110,000 – 130,000. But threats such as illegal hunting (for meat) and the illicit supply of hippo canine teeth as a source for ivory are among the many threats this species faces:
“A 1994 assessment by TRAFFIC, the monitoring agency of international trade for the IUCN, reported that illegal trade in Hippo ivory increased sharply following the international elephant ivory ban in 1989” – IUCN
In a 2017 study, “Missing teeth: Discordances in the trade of hippo ivory between Africa and Hong Kong,” the researchers found that upon interrogation of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) trade database, that almost all the trade in hippo teeth ivory was via Hong Kong. However, the volume of imports declared by Hong Kong was substantially different than the quantity reported by the exporting countries (Uganda and Tanzania), with the source of some 14,000kg of hippo teeth unaccounted for and thereby deemed to stem from illicit activity (Note: 14,000 kg is equivalent to 2,700 hippos, or 2% of the world’s hippo population). Presumably, this excess of imports was sourced from illegal hippo hunting.
Therefore, one would think that any proposed hippo cull (killing) would be a regrettable, last resort to thwart some worse case scenario. However, this is sadly not the case:
The claimed need for such a cull by Zambia’s Department of National Parks & Wildlife (DNPW) is “to prevent the future spread of anthrax among wild animals along a 250km stretch of riverine forest between Chikwa in North Luangwa and Lusangazi in South Luangwa.” Furthermore, the DNPW claims the threat of such an anthrax ‘problem’ is exacerbated due to “high populations of hippo, compounded by unusually low rainfall” – Born Free Foundation
According to the Born Free Foundation, the proposed hippo cull lacks any irrefutable, independent science to back the claimed ‘need’ – and appears to be no more than a commercial exercise, selling the ‘rights’ (sic) to trophy hunters to kill hippo.
“Please contact His Excellency Edgar Chagwa Lungu. You may wish to say the following: You are distressed to learn of plans to reinstate the hippo cull in the Luangwa Valley. There appears to be no scientific justification for the cull, and the culls are being marketed to fee-paying hunters by price rather than by skill. Ask the President, politely, to intervene and stop the cull. Start off your comment or letter with ‘Your Excellency’ and sign off ‘Yours respectfully and sincerely’.”
Address: State House P.O. Box 30135 Lusaka, Zambia
IWB’s letter to His Excellency Edgar Chagwa Lungu – Zambia_Hippo Cull_I01_2 June 2018