The Zambian government stands to make millions by resurrecting a proposal to let trophy hunters slaughter thousands of hippos along the Luangwa River under the guise of population control, a charity has claimed.
Zambia, who resurrected the proposal to cull a large number of its hippo population after rolling back the idea in 2016, says the mass killing is being carried out to control the hippopotamus population in Luangwa Valley in the east of the African nation, which is home to the largest hippo population in the world.
The hippos, the government argues, cause considerable damage to the environment, river banks and continue to threaten the sustainability of the river system. They are also concerned of an outbreak of anthrax that could spread to other animals.
However, experts at Born Free Foundation, international wildlife organization, have slammed the decision, insisting the species is increasingly rare and is being threatened across the African continent.
The killing of 1,250 hippos over five years could generate upwards of $3.4 million for trophy hunting outfitters and the Zambian government, the charity claims.
Dr. Mark Jones, Associate Director of Born Free Foundation, called the planned cull a “cynical move” by money-hungry officials.
“We don’t believe there is any reason the hippos should be culled and trophy hunting is not in any way an appropriate way of managing animal populations,” he told The Sun.
“These hunts are being sold by a South African hunting outfit called Siluwe Hunting — they’re talking about hunters killing two hippos for over $5,590.
“So our belief is that this is very far from an animal management program and very much to do with lining the pockets of trophy outfitters and very presumably some of Zambia’s officials.”
Jones slammed the proposal as a “thinly veiled opportunity for a few people to make a bit of money.”
There are approximately 130,000 wild hippos remaining on the planet and the trophy hunting industry is driven by Asian demand for their tusks as a substitute for ivory.
Local and international conservationists and safari operators are also opposed to the slaughter as they fear a tourism backlash, Born Free Foundation says.
However, Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) is poised to push ahead with the cull.
Born Free Foundation President and Co-Founder, Will Travers, said he is suspicious of the government’s reasoning for the mass killing.
“The justifications for this cull are like a sea of shifting sand,” he said.
“Originally, it was to prevent an outbreak of anthrax (which can be found in the carcasses of the dead hippos).
“Then it was because the water levels in the Luangwa River were precariously low. Now it is because there is a perceived hippo over-population.”
None of these justifications stand up to scrutiny, Jones and Travers say.
“They’ve dressed up a trophy hunting quota as some kind of wildlife management tool,” Jones said, adding that there is no evidence for the anthrax outbreak.
“They’ve claimed there’s overpopulation in Luangwa Valley which they claim has resulted from a lack of rainfall. Well there’s been no lack of rainfall — it’s been quite consistent in the last few years.”
The charity is urging the British government to take action against the proposed massacre. The UK is a significant donor to Zambia through the Department for International Development (DfID).
British taxpayers sent $57M to the country last year to assist with poverty relief, education, school meals and more.