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Hippos face extinction

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By Rebecca Chimjeka:

The Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) suspects that climate change is one of the factors fuelling the death of hippos at Liwonde National Park.

Director of Parks and Wildlife, Brington Kumchedwa, told journalists in Lilongwe yesterday that, so far, 22 hippos have died in a space of one and a half months.

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Kumchedwa said this is happening for the first time in Malawi.

“[The] sudden death of wild animals can be caused by a number of factors, both natural and artificial,” he said, citing occurrences in Zambia, Namibia, Uganda and Botswana where more than 20 hippos died recently and the deaths were attributed to over-stocking, receding water level, among other factors.

“The first carcasses of the hippos were seen floating on October 10,” Kumchedwa said, adding:

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“The Department of National Parks and Wildlife wishes to inform the public that hippos were dying in the Shire River upstream to Liwonde Barrage. The hippos started dying in mid-September 2018 at Liwonde Barrage and, to date, 22 have died over a period of two to three months,” he said

He said the department is “closely” monitoring the situation.

However, Deputy Director in the Department of Animal Health and Livestock Development in the Ministry of Agriculture, Julius Chulu, said the hippos might have died due to suffocation.

Chulu suspected that there could have been overconcentration of animals in limited spaces, which coincided with the lowering of water levels.

The official further said, if death was due to an environmental problem, the closeness of the hippos would have meant many animals were exposed to the same environment in a short time.

He, however, said his department is investigating the matters so that it can come to the bottom of the issue and discover factors that spurred the deaths of hippos in the national park.

“We have collected samples from the dead animals, the water and the environment. The samples are being processed at our central veterinary laboratory and it is expected that we may refer the findings to laboratories that have the capacity to handle wildlife samples.

“Meanwhile, we are urging people to resist the temptation of consuming the dead animals because some diseases may be passed from animals to humans,” Chulu said.

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