Tourism Minister Charles Banda has confirmed that the government has given a go ahead to a safari hunting company to cull Hippos in the Luangwa Valley.
Mr Banda has however revealed that only 250 Hippos will be culled in 250 and not the 2,000 Hippos that some conservation groups reported.
In an interview, Mr Banda said that government approved the culling of 250 Hippos as part of efforts to depopulate the animals.
He said going forward, the number of Hippos to be culled will be determined year by year after conducting a census.
Mr Banda said the contract with entered into Mambwe Safaris with the then ZAWA in 2015 is still valid although the operations of ZAWA have since been taken over by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife under the Ministry of Tourism and Arts.
In 2016, the Zambian government suspended the culling of Hippos in the Luangwa Valley over the next five years.
A South African hunting outfitter Umlilo Safaris has now started promoting Hippo hunting using the same licence obtained by Mambwe Safaris.
Wildlife charity, Born Free, who led efforts to stop the slaughter in 2016, is calling on government 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.”