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Zambia cancels plans to kill 2,000 hippos

Robust campaigning by animal rights activists has led Zambia to cancel plans to kill thousands of hippos, whose population in the country is one of the largest in the world.

The Zambian government has reversed a controversial plan to approve a large-scale programme to cull more than 2,000 hippos over a five year period in Eastern province’s Luangwa Valley, situated over 300 kilometers from the capital Lusaka. Animals rights activists cried foul following the original decision, influencing its overturning.

Read more: Zambia to allow trophy hunters to kill hippos, without evidence of overpopulation

hippos zambia cancels culling
The population of hippos (Hippopotamus amphibius) on the Luangwa River in Zambia is currently one of the largest in the world © Brent Stirton/Getty Images for WWF-Canon

Animal rights groups pressure the government

“The latest data confirms that in the decade to 2016, more than 6,000 hippo teeth, 2,048 hippo tusks and a further 1,183 hippo ‘trophies’ were exported to EU states alongside thousands of other parts and products,” wildlife conservation groups Born Free reports.

In fact, the Zambian government’s initial plans to carry ­out what was termed a “hippo management hunt” were abruptly cancelled in 2016, then re-instated two years later. In turn, international pressure from Born Free and other activist organisations for the Zambian government to scientifically justify the killing of hippos, together with threats of legal action and calls from the National Association of Community Resources Board in Zambia (NACRBZ) to reverse the cull, intensified.

Hippo culling cancelled in Zambia, again

These are some of the factors that led to the Zambian authorities to once again make a U-turn in their controversial decision to initiate the culling programme. A development which has seen hunting firm Mabwe Adventures, originally awarded the “hippo management” contract in 2016 by the government, to withdraw from the agreement.

“Since it was officially announced in 2018 that the cull program will commence in 2019, we have been bombarded with hate mail, calls and messages on social media and mainstream media,” South African hunting outfitter Umlilo Safaris commented on its website. “We have already notified all the clients that have booked these hunts about the recent developments, luckily this number is low,” it added.

Read more: South Africa, lions bred in farms for trophy hunting and the sale of their bones

hippo culling zambia cancelled
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the conservation status of the Hippopotamus amphibius as vulnerable on its Red List of endangered species © Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

As efforts have intensified to halt trade in elephant ivory, animal rights activists argue that in recent years hippos are being increasingly targeted for their tusks as a replacement. Unsurprisingly, the conservation status of this animal remains precarious, listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN’s Red List, which classifies how endangered species are, with an estimated population of just 115-130,000. One, therefore, that can’t afford the senseless culling of 2,000 of its members.

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