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Govt denies authorising culling of 2,000 hippos

Government has denied reports that it has authorised the culling of 2,000 hippos in Luangwa Valley national park with a high population of the mammals.

Born Free, a conservationist organisation, which two years ago led protests against plans by the government to cull elephants in the famous Luangwa Valley, in eastern Zamiba, has reported that the government plans to reinstate the culling program which was halted after protests in 2016.

According to the organisation, the government has agreed to conduct the culling with a South African base hunting firm of up to 2,000 hippos over the next five years.

But the Minister of Tourism and Arts Charles Banda, while acknowledging that the culling will take place, said it was not 2,000 hippos that will be killed.

 He told reporters during a press briefing that the government has agreed with the South African firm that not more than 250 hippos will be culled in a year and that the figure may vary depending on the environment.

The culling has been necessitated by the growing population of the hippos on the Luangwa River and that the killing will be done to maintain a suitable habitat for other aquatic species, Banda said.

He said the ministry has taken interest in the program to ensure that it is done in the interest of the country and that consultations with the attorney-general have been done on the validity of the agreement with the South African firm.