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It’s Hip to be a Hippo

Jun 27 • 2115 views • No Comments on It’s Hip to be a Hippo Africa, anti-poaching, Conservation, East Africa, hippo, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Travel, Uganda, Uganda Conservation Foundation, UWA, Volunteering, wildlife

Protecting the hippos of Queen Elizabeth National Park

hippos Queen Elizabeth National Park

Look at me – I’m gorgeous! Ugandan men prefer a bit of meat on their ladies…

One of the greatest attractions in Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP) are the hippo. Whether in the Ishasha River,  the Kazinga Channel, Lake Edward, Lake George – or all the smaller lakes and rivers – hippo have always dominated the waterways of Queen Elizabeth. At one time, Queen – an area of almost 2000 square km – had more mega herbivores per square km than anywhere else in Africa. In the 1960s, the number of hippos in Queen Elizabeth National Park was so high that they had turned grasslands to dust.

During the 1970s and 1980s, severe poaching decimated wildlife numbers.

Improved park management is leading to a slow repopulation, but today killing hippos for meat remains the most frequent form of poaching. The frequency and impact of poaching is easy to see, with many of Queen Elizabeth National Park’s rivers and ‘hippo pools’ noticeably empty.

 
Ishasha River, hippos of Queen Elizabeth National Park

Hippos bask on the shore of the Ishasha River, Queen Elizabeth National Park. The distant riverbank is the DRC (Congo)

In May 2006 the hippo was identified as a vulnerable species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, with an estimated global population of between 125,000 and 150,000 – a decline of between 7% and 20% since the IUCN’s previous study in 1996.
One of the Uganda Conservation Foundation (UCF)-funded boats, based at Mweya, has been helping in the clean-up operation following the recent Anthrax outbreak (2010). This is one of the four UCF-funded Waterways project boats in Queen Elizabeth.
Over the past 100 years, there have been a number of outbreaks of Anthrax in Queen Elizabeth, with 300 hippo dying in 2004. This, combined with the above factors, continues to make the hippo population of Queen Elizabeth National Park vulnerable.
hippos Queen Elizabeth National Park

Hippo carcasses are quickly collected and disposed of, following the Anthrax outbreak of 2010 in Queen Elizabeth National Park. PHOTO Uganda Wildlife Authority

The UCF / Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) biannual hippo survey of Queen Elizabeth National Park involved three weeks of sometimes risky work across very difficult terrain: of uncharted swamps, fast-flowing rivers and turbulent lakes, all while on the look-out for hippo, a mammal responsible for more deaths across Africa annually than any other. (Did you know that?) The survey team noted that hippo are very wary of humans where there is illegal fishing, highlighting the fact that poachers have been killing and smuggling hippo meat via boat. On the rivers, hippo tend to congregate in safe havens such as ranger camps. Far from the camps, they are easily scared, jumping out of the river when the team approached, an indication that man is an enemy to them.

hippos Queen Elizabeth National Park

‘Rebel lookalike’ Patrick and I laughed at this one! Actually these are the good guys! In the middle, wearing a baseball cap, is my UCF colleague Patrick with the Uganda Wildlife Authority rangers, patrolling Queen Elizabeth on the biannual hippo count PHOTO Uganda Conservation Foundation

 
If you’re interested in reading more about hippo conservation in Queen Elizabeth National Park, click here, why not become a Fan of UCF’s Facebook Page?

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