First my usual disclaimer: I am no fan of such trophy hunts. I often hike in remote spots to see bears and other animals in their natural habitat. We have previously followed the controversy over the shooting of “Cecil the Lion” by an American dentist Walter Palmer from Minnesota as well as subsequent controversies of an Idaho hunter taunting animal advocates and killing giant elephants or giraffes or rare goats or famed wolves for trophies. The most recent example is the decision of the highly corrupt Zambian government to allow trophy hunters to kill thousands of hippos, including rare and threatens species for windfall payments. Some 1,250 hippos have reportedly been slaughtered under the program. Hunters are allowed to shoot two hippos at a time for a few thousand dollars.
The Zambian government is under fire over its dubious claim that the mass killing the hippopotamus population in Luangwa Valley is an effort to cull or control the population. Wildlife experts have denounced the program as little more than a corrupt case for trophy business run by government officials. Dr Mark Jones, Associate Director of the International Wildlife organization, has said that the justification is transparently wrong. The government has changed its rational from excuses like controlling a nonexistent Anthrax epidemic caused by hippos to needing to cull the population.
Indeed, a recent article alleges that the cull was ordered after a threatened lawsuit from hunting outfits after officials allegedly violated a poorly-written contract signed with Mabwe Adventures Limited in 2016 — and then giving the right to sell trophy hunts to another hunting outfit Umlilo Safaris.
There are only 130,000 wild hippos left and there remains a huge market in Asia for their tusks as a substitute for ivory. Hippos are classified as “vulnerable” in the Red List compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
I will again express my confusion on why there is such a thrill to these kills for trophy hunters. I am not sure of the trophy that is commonly obtained from a hippo. However, shooting a hippo with a high-powered rifle is about as challenging shooting cars in the airport parking lot. Yet, thrilled hunters are shown posing with the dead animals like they have achieved something truly grand in the killing giant herbivores.