Zambian government officials announced Wednesday about plans of culling 2,000 hippopotamuses to control overpopulation.
A tourism ministry official, who wanted to remain anonymous, said a five year cull of the animals would start in May in an Eastern Zambia park, according to a report by AFP.
“Currently, the hippo population in the South Luangwa National Park stands at over 13,000, but Luangwa can only cater for 5,000 hippos,” he told AFP. “The population is higher and poses a danger to the ecosystem.”
The government once proposed a hippo cull back in 2016, estimating a 400-hippo quota due to the risk of an anthrax breakout, according to Unilad. However, officials reportedly cancelled the cull after receiving backlash from several animal rights activists, including Born Free.
“Zambia’s Department of National Parks & Wildlife (DNPW) claims that the cull is a ‘wildlife management tool’ to prevent anthrax outbreaks due to high populations of hippo, compounded by unusually low rainfall,” stated Born Free in a Facebook post.
“The justifications for this cull – which is being openly marketed to paying trophy hunters – are like a sea of shifting sand,” added Born Free president Will Travers in a statement. “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 overpopulation.”
A hippo killing spree
One South African trophy hunting company has now offered the Zambian government a six-night hippo killing spree.
Hunters will be allowed to kill five hippos for $18,000, while another company bargained $11,000 per dead hippo, according to the Toronto Sun.
The Daily Mail reported that one hunting website even called hunting hippos “terrifically exciting.”
Travers stated that the cull could provide the government $3.3 million.
“Hippo lives are on the line in order to line the pockets of a few hunting operators and government officials,” added Travers.
Hippos are currently classified as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and there are only 130,000 hippos in the wild of central and southern Africa.