Hippo cull leaves many questions unanswered as Born Free issues protest


(Posted 11th June 2016)

The Born Free Foundation has condemned Zambia’s plan to kill 400 hippopotamuses a year over the next five years in the Luangwa River Valley, an area world-famous as a wildlife stronghold.

According to reports, the cull, which has already started, was sanctioned by the Zambian Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) as a ‘wildlife management tool’ 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.

However, in what some are speculating as a measure to keep the proposed slaughter under wraps for as long as possible, local stakeholders were only informed about the cull four days before it started. They were also advised that the killing would be opened up to non-Zambian trophy hunters, raising questions about the legality of the hunt and its motivations.

A five-year hunting contract has been reportedly awarded to Mabwe Safaris, and is being marketed by a South African hunting company called De Marillac Safaris (www.demarillacsafaris.co.za).

Born Free President and Co-Founder, Will Travers OBE, stated: ‘There are many questions about this abhorrent activity, questions that simply must be answered: Is it a cull or is it ‘trophy hunting’? What is the scientific rationale for killing up to 2,000 hippo (there are perhaps as few as 80,000 hippo in all of Southern Africa)? Is culling an effective way of addressing the possible spread of anthrax? Where will the money from the cull really end up? Is there truly an over-population issue with hippo in the Luangwa area? At a time when wildlife populations of multiple species are under extreme pressure across much of Africa, many, including Born Free and our supporters around the world, fundamentally question the logic of killing thousands of hippo, and turning the flood plains of the Luangwa River Valley into ‘killing fields’. I am sure the hippo cull, along with Zambia’s decision to re-instate trophy hunting of lions, will cause many to question whether Zambia is the right wildlife safari destination for them. I urge the authorities to call a halt to the killing with immediate effect‘.

The hippopotamus is listed as Vulnerable on the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List with recent population estimates suggesting that, over the past 10 years, there has been a 7%-20% decline in hippo populations across the African range countries where hippos are found.