The director of the Department of Parks and Wildlife Management (DPWM) says the recent hippo rampage in Niamina East District could have been prevented if the affected communities had heeded the mitigation measures suggested by his Department.
Alpha Omar Jallow was speaking recently during an interview with the Daily Observer at the Baobab Holiday Resort.
He said it is rather unfortunate that the communities that reported the hippo rampage on their rice fields are villages that form part of the pilot villages where the Department of Parks and Wildlife Management (DPWM) actually implemented the ACCC project funded by the UNDP through the Ministry of Forestry and Environment.
He disclosed that the villages are Kununku, Tuba Demba Sama, Sambel Kunda, Morio, Karantaba and Wellingara, all in the Niamina East District.
Jallow said these communities deliberately refused to complement their efforts in constructing hippo barriers to prevent rampant invasion of their rice fields.
The DPWM boss explained that such mitigation measures are in form of building wooden barriers in areas where hippos intrude into the rice fields.
He recalled that they made several interventions in the past for these communities to prevent wildlife-human conflict, but to their surprise, certain people used the wooden fence for their domestic use.
He said his office usually collaborates with the Office of the Governor of Central River Region whenever hippos invade rice fields or attack people, by sending professional hunters to the area. He further stated that they have always been advising farmers to avoid cultivating up to the river bank without leaving space for the hippos to graze, but some of the farmers failed to heed the advice.
Jallow made it clear that the hippos are not owned by his department, but they are given the mandate to protect them. He pointed out that hippos are keystone species, and protected by the law.
"In the event that wild animals are found destroying rice fields, the farmers have all rights to kill those animals but no farmer is authorised to kill an animal at its place of refuge," he added.