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Hippos death toll hits 45

By Peter Kanjere:

The number of hippopotamuses that are dying due to anthrax at Liwonde National Park has increased from 33 to 45 since December 5 2018, but the death rate is declining, Director of Parks and Wildlife, Brighton Kumchedwa, confirmed Wednesday.

“The recorded deaths are not daily but say two or more days. In the past, we could register five deaths daily but now the last recorded was on December 24 and the previous one was on December 19,” he said.

The initial deaths of the hippos, whose carcasses were found floating on upper Shire River to Liwonde, was 22 in two months, before the figure rose to 33. The first death was recorded on October 10 2018.

Kumchedwa assured that the situation was under control, saying the deaths have not affected tourism business at the park, which, before the deaths, was home to 1,950 hippos.

“We fly over Shire River daily to identify the carcasses and once we do, we cover them in lime, as advised, and bury them. We were advised that burning the carcasses actually increases the spread of the [of the infection],” he said, stressing that the deaths are only happening along Shire River banks of the park.

The Department of Parks and Wildlife established that the hippos were dying due to anthrax—a disease that causes severe illness—after tests which the department and Ministry of Health sanctioned at Central Veterinary Laboratory.

Hippos are among the biggest tourists’ attractions at the park and in the country.

The government has since suspended consumption of bush meat to prevent transmission of the disease from the animals to humans.

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