I suspect many of us wouldn’t put hippo high up on the list of animals which are threatened by trade for their parts. Elephants, rhinos, tigers, pangolins and even sharks would be on the list, but not hippos.
Our first thought about hippos is the fact that they kill more people in Africa than any other vertebrate on the continent and that they have a terrifically impressive gape.
Even though the hippo is a herbivore they do proudly display an enormous pair of incisors and once carved, it is hard to distinguish between ivory from a hippo and an elephant. Hippos are an afterthought when it comes to the ivory trade, we are so focused on elephants.
According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) there has been an increase in hippo ivory trade, coincidentally when the ban on elephant ivory was put into place. Legally there is a trade in hippo ivory the majority of hippo ivory is exported to Hong Kong. 75% of this comes from Tanzania and Uganda estimating to be around a staggering 100,000 individual hippos.
There has been a decrease in the hippo population by 30% since the mid-1990s, whether this is due to habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and poaching. Hippos are totally reliant on water and with increased farming pressures and other forms of human conflict the situation is not ideal, especially as hippos are confined to water making migration particularly difficult.
Hippos provide enormous benefit to the environment; they fertilise the rivers with their dung which boosts fish populations, they channel waters into un-irrigated areas, they have been known to act like the policeman of the waterways and they change the habitat for other species due to their intensive grazing.
Let’s the hippo gets recognised and more protection is put into place to prevent their demise.