Hundreds of hippos and buffalo to be slaughtered as drought grips national park

Rangers in South Africa’s biggest wildlife park are killing about 350 hippos and buffalos as they struggle to deal with the most severe drought in more than three decades. They plan to distribute the meat from the killed animals to poor communities on the edge of the park. Officials say hippos and buffalos eat large amounts of vegetation and many would be expected to die anyway because of the drought, which has left millions of people across several countries needing food aid. Conservationists have raised fears that the cull is an attempt to address the problems of shortage of food for humans rather than sensible management of the park’s wildlife.

One would hope that the drought is not a cover for SANParks to start a ‘silent’ culling programme

Ian Michler, Conservation Action Trust

Parks officials have described drought as a natural way of regulating wildlife populations. Earlier this year, they said they didn’t plan any major intervention to try to save wild species in Kruger park, but the drought’s impact intensified. Hippos are in particular trouble because they can’t feed as widely as other animals, returning to water by day after grazing by night. Rangers are killing hippos in “small natural pools where they have concentrated in unnatural high densities, defecate in the water, making it unusable to other animal”, according to parks service spokesman Ike Phaahla.

Different species experience drought differently. Some predators love the drought, so it should be noted that our animal range is not affected equally

National Parks’ programme manager in fire ecology and biogeochemistry, Navashni Govender