In an effort to save stranded hippos fighting not only for territorial space but also survival in the Sampisi channel which flows from the Linyanti River, the Ministry of Environment and Tourism plans to drill boreholes to fill up streams where the animals are trapped.
A week ago, New Era broke the story that in the Zambezi Region, home to thousands of endangered wildlife, the Chobe River is drying up, which is affecting endangered animals such as hippos and crocodiles.
The lingering drought and drying up of the river are reportedly driving hippos and crocodiles into new areas to search much further for water, leaving some vulnerable to death.
However, the Minister of Environment and Tourism Pohamba Shifeta yesterday denied reports that five hippos died because of the drought – their deaths stemmed rather from bulls fighting for territorial space.
He said when bulls fight they prevent cows from leaving the river and at times through frustration end up killing the cows and their calves.
According to him, the ministry is planning to drill at least two boreholes to fill up the drying streams where hippos and crocodiles are currently trapped.
“The situation is serious but it’s not as bad as people put it. No animal died due to lack of water. The water is still enough for now. The problem is that the main stream of the Zambezi River is a bit low, but the animals can still survive there for two to three months. The river shrunk and it became so small. The concentration is now in smaller ponds, but the mortality is not because of lack of water as reported. It is because bulls are fighting each other as they are confined to a small area – meaning they are sharing the territory,” he explained.
Further, Shifeta who visited the area last week said if the fighting continues then the ministry will be left with little choice but to minimize the number of bulls.
Shifeta added that last week the ministry already culled two bulls that were declared problem animals.
After the culling, he said, the situation in the ponds is now calmer.
Among the five dead due to fighting for territorial space were two calves, which were severely injured, Shifeta said.
“It’s cold now. Hippos will not die because there is no water. They don’t live like fish, that’s why they graze even up to 10km from the river into the villages. It’s only that they need water to cool off,” he said.
He said a technical committee is already on the ground to rehabilitate the existing borehole in Vamunu Conservancy, which is severely affected, besides the new ones to be drilled.
According to him, apart from hippos and crocodiles, many other animals also need to benefit from such boreholes.
Regarding the budget for the planned boreholes, he said it would be determined at a later stage.
About 100 hippos are stranded in the Sampisi channel which flows from the Linyanti River in Zambezi Region.
A week ago, the director in the directorate of regional services and parks management in the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, Colgar Sikopo, confirmed the effects of the drought on wildlife in the country’s national parks.
“We have a situation where hippos and crocodiles are now trapped in pools. And when these pools dry up, they become muddy. Hippos are known to be territorial animals. Even if the pools dry up, they just stay there. We now have to rescue them,” he noted.
Such worrisome situations, Sikopo said, are already being observed in the Chinchimane and Linyanti areas – particularly in Vamunu Conservancy – where hippos and crocodiles congregate in smaller pools. He said the floodwater did not reach Lake Liyambezi and did not flow into the Linyanti-Kwando River.