Namibia: 200 Hippos, Crocodiles Wait to Die

ENVIRONMENT minister Pohamba Shifeta yesterday said the government might consider putting up for trophy hunting hippos trapped in the fast drying ponds along the Sibbinda River, Zambezi region.

More than 200 crocodiles and hippos are cramped in the few remaining ponds, 70 kilometres from Katima Mulilo, where they are virtually waiting for a slow death in a dead river.

The chairperson of Bamunu Conservancy, where the hippos and crocodiles are trapped, Chunga Chunga, said unless the animals are relocated, their fate is sealed since the few remaining ponds are turning into muddy puddles.

"The conservancy has already recorded up to 10 dead hippos, and now there are fears that the whole population of both crocodiles and hippos would either relocate to neighbouring Botswana, or would all die," Chunga said.

Chunga also said Lake Liambezi and the Chobe River that usually offer sanctuary to the hippos and crocodiels were also drying up, while there have not been any inflows from the Zambezi River in the past five years.

Environment ministry spokesperson Romeo Muyunda told The Namibian yesterday that they dispatched a helicopter from Windhoek to assess the situation.

Muyunda said the hippo population in the Zambezi is just over a 100 and that five have so far died this year. These deaths, he said, were acaused by infighting and not the drought.

He said the ministry has three options to consider in order to save the hippos, saying the crocodiles are not the worst affected as they can live on land.

According to Muyunda, the environment ministry has a three-pronged approach to the problem.

"We can consider drilling a borehole provide water until the next rainy season. Alternatively, we will chase them to the side where there is water which will be difficult as they are very territorial. We can also physically capture them and relocate them to other rivers," Muyunda said.

Shifeta, however, said the ministry will declare the animals problematic.

"Pumping of water to the river would be a costly exercise so the ministry will consider declaring the animals problematic and put them up for trophy hunting," he said, adding that he was planning to go and assess the situation himself tomorrow.

Zambezi governor Lawrence Sampofu last week visited the area, and called for the immediate relocation of the hippos, while also expressing fear for the lives of the people living in surrounding areas when the limited water sources finally dry up.

Source: The Namibian