The hippos trapped in the fast-drying ponds here are dying. The boreholes that the Ministry of Environment and Tourism drilled to pump water into the ponds have not filled up the ponds, as many other wild animals tend to drink the water.
There are now more than 100 hippos trapped.
When New Era visited the area last Thursday about 10 hippos were already dead, with some carcasses floating in the same shallow pools, where the other hippos are trapped. Three other carcasses were seen on dry land, one of them still fresh, indicating that it had died quite recently.
The hippos have been trapped in the fast-drying ponds for about three months. There have been calls for the animals to be urgently relocated, but the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) was of the view that pumping water into the ponds might help save the animals.
Councillor of Katima Mulilo Rural Constituency Warded Simushi, who was part of the group that visited the ponds last week, described the situation as “unbearable”.
He said they have made numerous recommendations to the MET to rather relocate the animals, but to no avail.
Simushi also said the pumping of water is not proving helpful to the hippos, as the water is being drunk by other wildlife, including elephants, zebras and buffaloes. As a result the ponds are drying up, instead of rising.
“The situation is unbearable. We’re trying our level best as regional councillors to rescue the situation, but unfortunately the regional council doesn’t have enough money to rescue the situation. We rely on the line ministry. That is why we made recommendations, but they have not come back to us,” he said.
Simushi also stressed that the animals are dying, because they cannot be submerged in the water.
Hippos need to spend about 16 hours a day submerged in water as they graze at night. When New Era visited the ponds the water levels were noticerably low and the hippos were hopelessly grouped together.
“Those hippos are dying nearly every day. When we reached there we managed to pull out three hippos, but three other hippos died on the same spot… a number of carcasses are just lying around the ponds, their backs are not submerged in water and they become dehydrated. That is why they are dying,” he further explained.
Simushi is also of the opinion that the only immediate solution to the problem is to relocate the hippos to other rivers and to continue pumping water into the ponds for the other wildlife to drink, as they are also dying due to the intense and persistent drought.