African representatives from Humane Society International (HSI) will argue for the classification of hippo as an endangered species at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora in Panama next month. This after South Africa exported an average of 122 hippos every year between 2009 and 2018, according to CITES trade data – more than 1% of the country’s entire hippo population.
This volume of legal hippo killing threatens to slash the species’ wild population by as much as 30% over the next 30 years.
HSI wildlife director Dr Audrey Delsink said that classifying the hippo as endangered will move it from Appendix II (animals not necessarily threatened with extinction) into Appendix I – animals that are under extreme threat and must be protected.
Over and above the commercial slaughter of hippos, the species is also vulnerable to climate change and drought. Delsink said that the 2015/2016 drought wiped out 50% of the Kruger National Park’s hippo population.
“Including hippos in Appendix I would prohibit international trade in hippos and their parts, thereby ensuring that such trade would not contribute to further declines in wild hippo population,” said Delsink.
The impending hippo crisis extends into other African countries, and as such, ten African representatives will recommend the classification for hippos in order to limit legal trade.
HSI director of wildlife programs Adam Peyman said, “Hippos are an iconic African species, yet the scale of the international trade in their parts and products such as tusks, teeth, skins, skulls and trophies is shocking. We urge CITES parties to adopt this proposal to ensure that this commercial trade ends. This pointless industry of selling animal parts, along with other threats facing hippos, is pushing these incredible animals to the brink of extinction.”
The convention will consider 52 proposals that recommend either an increase or decrease in the protection of 600 endangered species. HSI plans to reject a proposal to amend the listing of the African elephant, which would allow international trade in trophies, live animals, ivory, hair, skins, jewelry and stocks of ivory, and to support a proposal to transfer the African elephant to Appendix I. The species continues to be decimated by rampant poaching, with more than 30,000 elephants killed across Africa every year.
The HSI will also reject a proposal to move the southern white rhino population from Appendix I to Appendix II, which would allow international trade in hunting trophies and live animals.