The scene of the future crime against nature is Zambia’s world-famous Luangwa Valley. Trophy hunters would be allowed to kill up to 2,000 hippos there within the next five years. Umlilo, a South African operator, has safaris in its program that would allow each hunter to shoot up to five hippos. The cost: $14,000 per person.

Zambia’s government justifies the mass killing by claiming that there are too many hippos in the Luangwa: They are supposedly endangering the habitats of other species and destroying the embankments, impacting the river ecosystem as a whole. A further justification given is that the cull would help curb anthrax.

Conservationists have criticized the plan sharply.

The government has not provided any scientific evidence for an alleged overpopulation. One study shows that such killing sprees would even be counterproductive for regulating the number of hippos. There is also no evidence that killing healthy animals at random would do anything to curb or prevent anthrax outbreaks.

The government seems to be motivated mainly by the money that a handful of well-heeled hunters would bring into the country. This is terribly short-sighted, considering the outrage among countless wildlife enthusiasts worldwide and lasting damage to Zambia’s reputation that such a pointless slaughter would cause.

The cull is particularly irresponsible in view of the fact that hippos are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is estimated that less than 130,000 individuals live in the wild.

In 2016, the Zambian government had plans for a similar cull, but dropped the idea after fierce international protests. It’s time to speak out again.

Please tell the Zambian government: Let the hippos live!


South Luangwa National Park

South Luangwa National Park is Zambia’s best-known wildlife sanctuary. It was declared a protected area in 1938 and a national park in 1972. With an area of 9,050 km², it is the largest of three parks in Luangwa Valley. The river is the lifeline of the park. During the dry season from April to October, it offers excellent opportunities to observe wildlife as the animals gather around the remaining water sources. In November, the rains begin and parched landscape becomes lush and green.

Hippos are listed as vulnerable

Hippos exist only in sub-Saharan Africa. Their population is estimated at 115,000 to 130,000. Of these, 40,000 individuals live in Zambia, more than in any other country. 25,000 can be found in Luangwa River alone. Hippos (Hippopotamus amphibius) are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Nevertheless, hunting is permitted in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia.

The human threat to hippos

Habitat destruction – for example through the expansion of agriculture – is a major threat to hippos. The animals are often regarded as pests that damage fields and plantations. Hippos are also hunted for their flesh, tough skin and the ivory of their teeth. Trophy hunting by rich tourists is a further threat.