A plan by the Zambian authorities to slaughter 2,000 hippopotami on the grounds of population control has been slammed by conservationists who asserted the real motive was to make a financial killing through trophy hunters, according to a report on Friday.
“Currently the hippo population in the South Luangwa National Park stands at over 13,000, but Luangwa can only cater for 5,000 hippos,” said an official at the tourism ministry, who asked to remain anonymous, the East African reported.
“The population is higher and poses a danger to the ecosystem,” said the official before adding that the five-year cull would begin in May.
However, the Born Free conservation group has called on the government to call off the cull which it said was being staged to lure money from hunters.
Born Free’s president, Will Travers, said: “The justifications for this cull — which is being openly marketed to paying trophy hunters — are like a sea of shifting sand.
“Originally, it was to prevent an outbreak of anthrax. 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.”
The cull – which was postponed in 2016 – has the potential to generate $3.3 million for trophy-hunting organisers and the government, said Travers.
“Hippo lives are on the line in order to line the pockets of a few hunting operators and government officials,” he said.
Hippos, which are herbivorous, semi-aquatic mammals, are classified as “vulnerable” in the Red List compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
There are approximately 130,000 remaining in the wild, in central and southern Africa.
– African News Agency