More than 100 hippos have died in Namibia in a remote national park, the country’s environment minister revealed this week, warning anthrax could be to blame.
About 109 hippos have been killed in just one week in a suspected anthrax outbreak in western Bwabwata National Park, reports The Namibian.
Parks deputy director of the north-east regions, Apollinaris Kannyinga, confirmed the deaths to The Namibian, saying the supposed outbreak began on Sunday last week.
We first noticed the deaths of 10 hippos last week on Sunday, but the number increased during the week.
As we speak, the number of deaths is 109. We suspect an anthrax outbreak, but our veterinary team is still to confirm that.
We even saw the one in Tanzania, so as much as the numbers seem to be high, the hippo population usually recovers.
In a gruesome revelation, he added he would have to stop locals from trying to scavenge the meat from the dead hippos, as other wild animals prey on the dead animals.
The other mortalities are dispersed over the river, and the crocodiles and vultures are feeding on them.
We will just sensitise the community not to try and get the meat of these dead hippos for consumption.
The hippo population in Namibia was estimated at 1,300 by government officials, before the latest deaths.
Anthrax is caused by the spores of bacteria, Bacillus anthracis, and affects around 2,000 people per year in Africa – however, the disease is more common in animals.
The serious infectious disease can be contracted by touching, inhaling or swallowing the spores, which can lie dormant in water and soil for years, according to the US Centers for Disease Control.
Domestic and wild animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, antelope and deer can become infected when they breathe in or ingest spores in contaminated soil, plants, or water.
In areas where domestic animals have had anthrax in the past, routine vaccination can help prevent outbreaks.
Anthrax is most common in agricultural regions of Central and South America, sub-Saharan Africa, central and southwestern Asia, southern and eastern Europe and the Caribbean.
It’s worth noting the naturally occurring disease is not caused by human input.
Meanwhile, a new study has shown that a rise in demand for hippos’ teeth is threatening the mammal with extinction, as the black market’s insatiable demand for ivory has turned poachers’ attention away from well-protected elephants to more vulnerable hippos.
Since 1975, 1.7 million pounds of hippo teeth have been traded around the world, with 90 per cent of the trade passing through Hong Kong, according to researchers at the University of Hong Kong.
Of that 90 per cent , 75 per cent has come from Uganda and Tanzania – like Hong Kong, both African countries report their legal trade volumes to CITES, an organisation which monitors trade in threatened species.
But apparently the numbers don’t add up, with 30,860 pounds of hippo teeth – the equivalent from 2,700 hippos, or 2% of the animal’s global population — overlooked.
Let’s hope the majestic animals recover from the naturally-occurring deaths so conservationists can dedicate their efforts to preventing poachers laying waste to the population.