Tanzania (Xinhua) -- Tanzania is set to carry out a
countrywide census for hippopotamus and crocodiles in an effort
to scale up conservation of the wild animals, a senior official
said on Wednesday.
The move comes amid reports indicating
that poachers are now targeting the animals for their teeth that
have a profitable market in Asia.
Director General of the Tanzania
Wildlife Research Institute, Simon Mduma, said in an interview
that the hippos and crocodiles’ population census will be held
between July and August, this year.
He said that funds for the exercise
have been solicited and his institution expects to conduct the
task during the dry season.
“Unfortunately we got the funds from
stakeholders last year when the dry season was over and we
failed because the exercise will mainly be done in rivers and it
will involve aerial and land surveys,” the official said.
According to Mduma, the one-month
exercise will start with the hippos and crocodiles located in
southern Tanzania’s national parks and game reserves and will
involve experts from the Tanzania National Parks and the
Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority.
The last countrywide census
specifically for hippos was conducted in 2001 and the result
showed there were 20,079 of them, according to records.
It is not known how many hippos are
left across Africa, but during the past few decades the animal,
with a reputation as the continent’s most dangerous, more
dangerous than lions, elephants, even Cape buffalo, has become
increasingly threatened by hunting.
Available data shows Tanzania has a
licensing system which allows hunting and sale of hippopotamus
teeth collected from animals that die from natural cause.
However, issuance of permits for
export of hippo teeth was suspended since 2004, meaning that no
hippo teeth were exported legally except those obtained through
Conservationists believe with the
existing regulatory mechanism and intensified anti-poaching
efforts, the country’s hippopotamus population was not
threatened by the existing level of legal harvest.
A report dubbed ‘Fighting the
Underground Trade in Hippo Teeth’ released in 2016 by the
National Geographic, poaching cartels operating in Tanzania and
elsewhere in Africa have recently turned to hippos for their
teeth which are curved into ornaments which fetch millions of
dollars in Asia.
Records of the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and
Flora show that between 2004 and 2014, Hong Kong reported
importing almost 60 tons of teeth from wild hippos in Africa for
commercial purpose, the report said.
Trade figures show that the source
countries are now predominantly Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and
The International Union for
Conservation of Nature, which monitors the conservation status
of species, classifies hippos as vulnerable because threats of
illegal, unregulated trade in their teeth, demand for their
meat, and habitat loss are likely to continue.