In the News...
April 2008

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This month's stories:


Pesticde Kills Hippos in Kenya

Wildlife conservationists in Kenya say that a toxic agricultural pesticide, increasingly used by nomadic people to poison animals threatening their herds, is decimating the country's diverse wildlife population and possibly affecting human health.  And now, a Kenyan wildlife group demanded on Monday the banning of a highly toxic pesticide after five hippopotamuses died.


The hippo carcasses then led to the discovery of four lions suffering from acute paralysis. The lions had fed on one of the dead hippos and test results later showed trace amounts of carbofuran in the lions' stomachs.

Several cases of deliberate poisoning of animals using carbofuran pesticide have been reported in recent years in various parts of Kenya, especially in areas where the animals are increasingly competing for living space and territory with humans.  Traces of carbofuran, the toxic insecticide that is banned in the European Union, were found in areas where the hippos were known to graze. 

"We are appealing to the Kenya government ... (to) ban the importation, sale, distribution and use of this deadly chemical in Kenya," said Richard Leakey, anthropologist and chairman of Wildlife Direct. 

Leakey said the chemical was "widely abused" because it can be bought cheaply over the counter from any agricultural goods' vendor. 

He said nomadic people living near the Masai Mara may have used the chemical to poison predators, not knowing that killing animals with carbofuran often lead to secondary poisonings that have the potential to wipe out entire wildlife populations.

"A small dose on meat will kill lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, jackal, vulture, and it is a much bigger problem than the conservancy," said Leakey. "A lot of the nomadic people, who are fed up with the constant harassment of their [live]stock and the predation they are suffering from, have learned to use carbofuran."

Wildlife Direct said exposure to carbofuran over stimulates the nervous system, which can cause paralysis or death. 

The chemical is especially lethal to birds, who mistake the pesticide for a plant seed and eat it whole. 

Some 187 vultures were killed near Kenya's Athi river in 2004 because of carbofuran poisoning.

Source: News24.com and VOAnews.com (online) 29 Apr 08
06/05/08


Deadly Dam Drained to Discourage Hippo Population

Conservation authorities began to drain the Silolweni Dam on Tuesday to prevent algal poisoning of the wildlife in the area, said the Kruger National Park. 

The decision was made after conservation officials and rangers found five zebra carcasses near the Tshokwane picnic site and suspected that blue-green algae (cyano bacteria) was responsible for the deaths. 

This was confirmed after full post-mortems were done on two carcasses - by state veterinarian Roy Bengis - and water samples from the dam revealed a high concentration of the algae.
"We understand that the large concentration of this algal poison was built up due to the high concentration of hippo in the dam 

"... we have found that the most-effective way to discourage the hippos from visiting the dam is to lower the level of the water," said Freek Venter, the park's head of conservation management.
The grass around the dam was also burnt, before the draining, to discourage animals from grazing near it. 

Silolweni Dam is popular as a game-viewing site and is visited by thousands of tourists every year, the park said. 

"A number of options were considered before it was decided to drain the dam using floating pumps set up in the middle of the dam. 

"As this is the second case in the last 12 months when algal poisoning has caused multiple animal deaths, we are looking at permanent solutions to the problem," said Venter. 

The Nhlanganzwane Dam near Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp was breached in July 2007 after it was discovered that the same algal poisoning had killed more than 54 animals.

Sources: News24.com and IOL.co.za – 15 Apr 2008
06/05/08


An Unusual Housemate

In the wild, the sight of a hippopotamus can be a treasured memory for tourists on a holiday of a lifetime.

But for one South African couple, seeing the water-loving mammal is a more everyday occurrence - because they share their home with Jessica, the house hippo.  Jessica
Jessica: "At Home"

Jessica was found as a baby in March 2000 after devastating floods which swept across South Africa left her orphaned and alone on the banks of the Blyde River in the north of the country. 

Rather than leaving her to the mercy of nature or placing her in a zoo, park ranger Tonie Joubert brought Jessica home to his wife Shirley in Hoedspruit where the animal has lived ever since as if she was the couple's daughter.

Mrs Joubert's initial reaction to Jessica, who could grow to a weight of 4,000 kilos, is not recorded, but she now happily feeds the monster mammal a favourite meal of corn on the cob and cabbage and allows her to eat from the kitchen table. 

Hippos, the third heaviest land mammals in the world, favour the cool of water holes in the day but venture out to eat grass and fallen fruit at night. 

But Jessica seems to prefer the shade of a detached villa and pulls her considerable weight by trimming the lawn outside with her prominent teeth.

Source: White, J; Daily Mail of U.K. (online) 30 April 2008
06/05/08


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