Zambian authorities have overturned their 2016 decision to suspend the culling of up to 2,000 hippos in the world-famous Luangwa Valley over the next five years. The cull is once again being promoted to trophy hunters as a hunt, this time by the South African hunting outfitter Umlilo Safaris. Wildlife charity, Born Free, who led efforts to stop the culling in 2016, is calling for the authorities to urgently re-consider and abort the agreement that only benefits private safari hunting companies and trophy hunters.
Born Free President, Will Travers OBE, stated: “Our sources reveal that the government has moved swiftly to reinstate the cull, perhaps hoping this would go unnoticed. Far from it! They are, apparently, using the same flawed rational for the slaughter as last time – a preventative measure to avoid a future outbreak of anthrax, combined with an assertion that low rainfall will exacerbate the situation. They also appear not to have informed key stakeholders in the Luangwa Valley, including the Luangwa Safari Association and the District Commissioner. The negative consequences for thousands of hippo and Zambia’s reputation as a wildlife tourism destination – the proposed cull site can be seen from the internationally-renowned Chichele Lodge – cannot be under-estimated.”
According to Born Free, the Zambian Ministry of Justice has decided that the original and discredited contract between The Department of National Parks & Wildlife (DNPW) and Mabwe Safaris – the Zambian company who were awarded the culling contract last time – should be honoured and that the cull is to start imminently. Hunting camps are already being set up. However, the original contract was, in Born Free’s view, based on false information and should be rescinded.
Travers concluded: “Born Free is asking national and international wildlife conservation organisations, concerned individuals and those who have a strong affinity with hippos, to join us in calling on the President of Zambia, His Excellency Edgar Chagwa Lungu, to personally intervene and call a permanent halt to this damaging and distressing plan, with immediate effect.”
The hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) is listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, with an estimated population of just 115-130,000 animals. The Red List assessment notes that hippo population declines continue to be reported in many countries, and that “The conservation status of Hippos remains precarious and the need for direct conservation action to protect Hippos and Hippo habitat across their range is a priority”.
Born Free’s mission is to ensure that all wild animals, whether living in captivity or in the wild, are treated with compassion and respect and are able to live their lives according to their needs. Born Free promotes Compassionate Conservation to enhance the survival of threatened species in the wild and protect natural habitats while respecting the needs of and safeguarding the welfare of individual animals.