THE Department of National Parks and Wildlife has suspended the culling of hippos in the Luangwa Valley following protests by animal rights activists, it was learnt yesterday.
Ministry of Tourism and Arts public relations officer Sakabilo Kalembwe said the move had been necessitated by ‘‘events that had come with the culling activity’’ that started last month.
He said the department would in the meantime evaluate the matter and provide a way forward.
But it was learnt yesterday that animal rights activists had protested to the Zambian Government against the slaughter of the hippos in the Luangwa river, one of the most renowned animal sanctuaries in the world.
But Mr Kalembwe explained that culling was a wildlife management measure undertaken in situations where the population of a particular species exceeded the carrying capacity of the habitat.
He said recently research had revealed that the water levels in the Luangwa River system had been low and insufficient to support the hippo population especially in the dry season.
“The Department of National Parks and Wildlife has assessed the situation and estimated that 2,000 hippos need to be culled in a space of five years,” he said.
Mr Kalembwe said following the suspension of the culling operations, the department was making extensive consultations and would make further pronouncements on the matter as it deemed fit according to its mandate.
He said the department was committed to the protection and sustainable utilization of wildlife resources for ecological and socio-economic benefits for the present and future as mandated by Wildlife Act no. 14 of 2015.