Namibia: Govt Still Probing Mass Hippo Deaths

Photo: Chronicle
Dead hippo.
7 October 2019

Windhoek — The Ministry of Environment and Tourism is still investigating the high mortalities of hippos in Lake Lyambezi around Zilitene area of Zambezi Region.

Over 100 hippos found at Lake Lyambezi in the Katima Mulilo Rural Constituency have since been dying.

Recently, dozens of community members were seen at the banks of Lake Lyambezi where the hippos are stranded, waiting for one to die so that they could also have a share.

It has been reported that about 50 hippos have already died and the number is expected to rise.

Asked on the situation of the dying hippos, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism spokesperson Romeo Muyunda on Friday said the ministry is still investigating the cause of mortalities.

However, he revealed the situation has since improved, as they did not receive reports of hippo mortalities in the past two weeks.

Muyunda encouraged community members to desist from eating the meat, because the cause of death remains unknown.

"It seems mortalities has stopped, but we still urge people in the area should they discover a carcass, not to consume the meat. The ministry in collaboration with the ministry of agriculture is still investigating the cause of mortalities. Until then, communities are urged not to consume the meat. We suspect that the mortalities can be as a result of animal disease," Muyunda noted.

Initially, it was suspected that the hippos were dying of anthrax, but that has been ruled out after test results came out negative.

Although not yet confirmed, the ministry suspected that the hippos might have been poisoned after they went to graze at a nearby production farm in neighbouring Botswana where they reportedly use very poisonous pesticides.

"A team was there to take samples of inner organs - livers and kidneys," the environment ministry's chief control warden in Zambezi Region Morgan Saisai said.

When New Era visited the lake recently, it was observed that community members had already started having a feast as they were sharing meat of the semi-aquatic mammals. The early birds filled their vehicles with hippo meat after three hippos were reportedly found dead.

According to Saisai, the entire lake Lyambezi is home to over 400 hippos, and if the current situation continues, the entire population might be lost as the lake is also fast drying out with drought taking its course.

Asked on the situation of the hippos that were stuck in a pond of the Chobe River, Muyunda confirmed they are doing well.

"The threat has been averted as we continue to pump water on a daily basis. Our staff members with the assistance of the Salambala Conservancy are pumping water and monitoring the situation. So far, the hippos have sufficient water," he said.

Equally, he explained the community are using the same borehole to pump water for themselves.

Additionally, he said the pond is also helping in water provision for livestock and other wildlife species in the area.

According to him, there is only one borehole drilled there and it is pumping sufficient amounts of water on a daily basis.

"The ministry will continue to pump water in the pond until the river is functional, then we will donate the borehole to the conservancy. Since the ministry started pumping water into the ponds, no mortalities have been recorded. And we are generally happy with the progress and achievement of this initiative," Muyunda stated.

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