Cape Town - The Kruger National Park has started culling hippo and is considering its options for the buffalo in the park too due to food shortages in the wake of the ongoing drought.
While the park received heavy rain in March, the past season's drought has had a knock-on effect on food supplies and now drastic measures need to be implemented to ensure the well-being of all animals in the park.
This is according to Reynold Thakhuli for SANParks, who confirmed that the culling process has started. So far, 50 hippos have been culled and another 100 may be culled later this year.
200 buffalo may also need to be culled.
“The cull is not because of lack of water," Thakhuli says. "The problem is food."
Many areas of the park, especially the central areas from Skukuza to Olifants River, are still barren, with no grass for animals to feed on.
Typically, during this part of the year, the Kruger's grasslands are plush from the summer rain, and enough to sustain herbivores through the winter months.
In November last year, during the height of the drought, SANParks also issued a controversial statement saying they were not going to intervene in providing drought-affected animals with additional water supplies.
They issued a statement saying they "will remain true to the conservation ethics as the dry conditions continue, managing as far as possible for healthy, naturally regulated ecosystems rather than the survival of individual animals in all the parks".
This meant encouraging a survival of the fittest principle.
According to SANParks, there are currently around 8 000 hippos in the park. From these, around 300 had already died because of last year's drought.
According to Thakhuli, "The meat from the culled animals is currently being sold to staff as the park is in the process of getting their abattoir registered in order to supply hippo meat to needy NGOs around the park."
Elephants are feeling the effects of the drought too, and venturing out of park borders to find alternative food supplies. As a result, elephants are wreaking havoc on roads bordering the Greater Kruger National Parks.
In a most recent incident, an ex-ANC member's BMW SUV was written off after hitting a rogue elephant bull on the Hoedspruit main road. Previously, elephants broke free from the Balule Nature Reserve borders and blocked a road, most likely to search for food.
Apart from the drought and food shortage, the Kruger also faces other conservation dilemmas. In May this year, the park lost a pack of African wild dogs, known as the Lower Sabie pack, to Canine distemper.
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