“In my view, US trade [in hippo parts] is largely a by-product of other reasons for killing,” says Crawford Allan, wildlife trade expert at the World Wildlife Fund. In Africa, he says, “nobody wastes anything.” So if you kill an animal because it’s a threat to your community, you eat the meat, you sell the skin, you sell the teeth, you sell the skull to taxidermists .” Hippopotamus parts such as teeth and skin are not valuable enough to local hunters to constitute a valid reason for their killing.
Other experts share this opinion. Lewison cites the example of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the hippopotamus population declined from nearly 30,000 in the mid-1970s to fewer than 1,000 in 2005. The animals were killed during riots and wars “when all were starving.” . And they ate them.”
Lewison acknowledges that hippo parts are sometimes found during seizures of traded wildlife products, but says they make up only a small part of the illegal wildlife trade, which is funded by far more valuable products like elephant ivory and rhino horn.
A analysis Official trade figures from HSI and its associates showed that of the hippopotamus products imported into the US between 2008 and 2019, 2,074 were hunting trophies. (Other nations legally imported about 2,000 more hippopotamus trophies during the same period). However, a trade Database The list compiled by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora shows that virtually all hippo trophies and other parts recorded by the HSI came from countries with large, apparently well-managed hippo populations. Neither HSI nor the Center for Biological Diversity provided data showing a link between hunted trophies or other legally traded parts and hippopotamus declines.
Paul Scholte, an Ethiopia-based member of the Hippo Specialist Group, says regulated trophy hunting can have conservation benefits. Along with field colleagues, he conducted and published surveys of hippo populations in northern Cameroon, which showed declining populations in government-managed sanctuaries and either stable or increasing populations in areas leased from private trophy-hunting outfitters.
“The factor that explains whether or not a hippopotamus population is stable is the year-round presence of protection — from rangers or boy scouts,” Scholte says, explaining that state rangers don’t patrol during much of the wet season, when moving around is difficult . However, trophy hunting companies have the financial means and motivation to continuously protect their concessions from poachers and illegal gold miners killing hippos in this region.
Hippo experts say the focus on the parts trade is distracting from more important issues and escalating tensions between African countries. They point out that southern and east African countries — which have larger and better managed protected areas — generally harbor safer hippopotamus populations than countries in central and west Africa, where many populations are threatened with extinction.
These differing circumstances result in different views on conservation policy: West and Central African authorities generally favor bans on wildlife trade, believing they would prevent poaching of their highly vulnerable populations, while most countries in Southern Africa and some in East Africa argue that their populations are large enough to sustain the hunting and commercial trade that fund wildlife conservation.