Outrage from animal conservation groups is mounting after leaked photos showed that thousands of Hippos are being slaughtered in the South Luangwa.
This was after Director of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DPNW), formerly ZAWA Paul Zyambo confirmed in an interview that there was an ongoing hippo culling programme in the South Luangwa.
Mr Zyambo said the hippo hunt contract was awarded last year as part of a culling programme aimed at managing the hippo population along the Luangwa River in the south.
Mr Zyambo has declined to comment on the legality of the programme, which he said was planned by ZAWA sometime last year, well before it was re-constituted and re-branded as the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DPNW) early this year.
The leaked photos show that up to 2 000 hippos along the Luangwa River could be up for slaughter allegedly by a South African professional hunter known as Theo De Marillac of De Marillac Safaris standing over the body of a slain hippo which sells them for R181 300.
The images were downloaded from the Facebook page of Kamisa Malipita, an employee of the Zambian Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DPNW).
The employee took part in the killing programme on May 31, 2016.
The Zambian Department of National Parks and Wildlife awarded the South African hunter a five-year hippo cull/ trophy hunting licence.
However, animal activists have opposed the programme and described it as a trophy hunting exercise disguised as a population management plan.
The killing reported to be of up to 400 hippos every year for the next five years is officially to stop the spread of anthrax, an infection that can be fatal to humans.
But the UK-headquartered Born Free organisation suggests that the cull is more about “trophy hunting” and says it will turn this 250km stretch of the Luangwa River into “killing fields”.
Born Free claims on its Facebook page that Theo De Marillac Safaris is marketing the hunts.
On its website, Theo De Marillac Safaris urges potential clients to “experience the rare and exciting opportunity of participating in a controlled hippo hunt in Zambia’s Upper and Lower Lupandi”.
“This walk and stalk hunt over the flood plains means hippo are hunted on land, making this a very exciting, adrenalin-pumping safari,” says the company.
A five-day safari – which will see five hippo hunted – will cost R129 500 while a seven-day safari, hunting seven hippos, will cost R181 300.
Will Travers, Born Free founder, said in a statement: “At a time when wildlife populations of multiple species are under extreme pressure across much of Africa, many, including Born Free and our supporters around the world, fundamentally question the logic of killing thousands of hippo, and turning the flood plains of the Luangwa River Valley into ‘killing fields’.”
“There is an urgent situation arising in the South Luangwa region of Zambia. Hippo hunting license/s have been awarded to a foreign Professional Hunter (PH) with large bag limits of up to 2,000 over the next 5 years under the guise of animal management,” a source said.
“Presently, the (South African) professional hunter is busy selling hippo trophy hunts to other foreign nationals,” the source said.
“At least six hippos have been killed since the ongoing programme began on May 22, 2016. There are real questions as to the legality of the original issuance of the licenses. “There were questions raised by the new Director of DNPW that the licenses may not have been legal and were arranged under the now defunct wildlife authority last year. Despite this, DNPW have forged ahead with the contract and killing has commenced.”
The source said since May, the department of National Parks and Wildlife, had held meetings with six Community Resource Boards (CRB) where they informed people that whole herds of hippo – including pregnant and suckling females, as well as their calves – would be killed.
The source warned that indiscriminate killings would wipe out hippos from the river and represent a contravention of Zambia Wildlife Act because they involve foreign hunters.
“To the best of my knowledge no Environmental Impact Assessment has been prepared or submitted. Local professional hunters safari outfitters were up in arms. The foreign hunter will bag 400 hippos per year,” said the source adding that the duration of the hunting season is 4 months and that a significant proportion of the hippo population in the Luangwa Valley will be wiped out.
The Luangwa River is one the major tributaries of the Zambezi River and one of the four biggest rivers of Zambia.
The Ricer generally floods in the rainy season from December to March and then falls considerably in the dry season.
When the dry season is particularly bad, as it has been for several years, the pressure on hippo population is huge.
The Hippotamus is listed as Vulnerable on the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Around the 1980s, the Black Rhino had the greatest concentration on the African continent in the Luangwa valley and the Zambian Government allowed its hunting until extinction.
The Government and hunting fraternity at the time was that the Rhino were plentiful species and the sale of its hunting licences went unchecked.
The further poaching for the illegal trade in Rhino horn saw the end of this species.
Today, the largest concentration of the Hippo is along the Luangwa River and conservation groups are warning that if the hunting of thousands of Hippos over the next five years is allowed, it will lead to the extinction of its species as it happened with the Rhino.