Lusaka — CONSERVATIONISTS have decried the decision by the Zambian government to grant permission for the culling of some 1 250 hippopotamus.
A local company, Mabwe Adventures, has received permission to cull the animals at the Luangwa Valley but it sub-contracted the exercise to a safari outfitter in South Africa, Umlilo Safaris.
Culling refers to the reduction of the population of wild animal by selective slaughter.
Born Free, the animal conservation group, bemoaned the exercise, saying the Zambian government and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife had consistently failed to produce scientific evidence that there was an overpopulation of hippos in the Luangwa River.
He decried alleged lack of evidence the hippos were causing irreversible environmental damage.
Howard Jones, Born Free's Chief Executive Officer, said the Zambian government's own published research had shown that previous hippo culls in Luangwa had failed to 'control' the hippo population, and had, conversely, stimulated an increase in population growth.
"Put simply, previous culls have failed to reduce the hippo population, if that was the intention," Jones said.
He said the contract for the cull was "shrouded in controversy" after it was reportedly sublet to Umlilo Safaris, which was reportedly openly selling the opportunity to kill hippos in Luangwa to fee-paying trophy hunters.
"This cull has nothing to do with animal management or conservation, and everything to do with money," Jones said.
Zambia has justified the cull, arguing it was a wildlife management tool aimed at preventing anthrax outbreaks among animals due to high populations of hippo.
In September, Finland, Ireland, Sweden and United Kingdom all suspended aid to Zambia because of alleged corruption in its administration.