Zambian animal rights activists have warned of the possible slaughter of up to 2 000 hippos along the Luangwa River allegedly by a South African professional hunter.
The outrage follows the leaking of images showing SA professional hunter Theo De Marillac of De Marillac Safaris (www.demarillacsafaris.co.za) standing over the body of a slain hippo.
Although De Marillac could not be reached for comment, other images on the website show the hippo being shot as it enters the water on a stretch of the Luangwa River, villagers skinning dead hippos and two severed hippo heads.
The images were posted by a whistle-blower called a “Friend of Wildlife” who downloaded them 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 programme on May 31, 2016.
Ironically, it was Zambian authorities who awarded the South African hunter a five-year hippo cull/ trophy hunting licence.
The African News Agency (ANA) visited the Facebook page and found it to be the authentic source of the graphic images.
Information on the website of the DPNW indicates 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.
However, activists have consistently opposed the programme and described it as a trophy hunting exercise disguised as a population management plan.
“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 whistle-blower said in a message sent to ANA from Lusaka.
“Presently, the (South African) professional hunter is busy selling hippo trophy hunts to other foreign nationals.
“At least six hippo 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 whistle-blower 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.
He warned 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 whistle-blower.
“The duration of the hunting season is 4 months. In this case, a significant proportion of the hippo population in the Luangwa Valley will be wiped out.”
Further, the whistle-blower alleged that local safari operators who were initially unhappy with the issuing of the trophy hunts to a foreign company are now allowing foreign clients to hunt hippos on their concessions in return for financial benefits.
DPNW director Paul Zyambo confirmed to the African News Agency (ANA) that there was an ongoing hippo culling programme in the South Luangwa.
However, Zyambo declined to comment on the legality of the programme, which he said was planned by the Zambia Wildlife Authority sometime last year, well before it was re-constituted and re-branded as the Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DPNW) which he heads, early this year.
– African News Agency