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A few weeks ago we posted about the hippos at Zambia’s Kasanka National Park that were entangled together by a poacher’s snare and urgently needed assistance. Here is an update on them:

To start the rescue operations the team at Kasanka National Park decided to block all exit spots out of the pond that they were living in with pole structures, leaving only only one opening left. The hippos started using that one exit/entrance and a platform was constructed for scouts to be able to monitor their time schedules in and out of the pond without being in danger of an attack.

One night when the two came out from the pool, Pieter Snyman, Kasanka Trust Manager of Operations and Infrastructure at Lavushi Manda and Kasanka National Parks, was on the platform and could see the snares clearly. The hippos, which turned out to be a female and sub-adult bull calf, were not entangled anymore but both of them still had cables on their front left feet at the first joint. The calf had an awkward walk and the female could only walk on three legs with the fourth foot very swollen and sensitive.

The hippos did not return that night and the next morning Pieter found them in the Luwombwa river about 3.5 km away. It was decided by vet Ian Parsons that the hippos would be darted in the river on the first opportunity, therefore not giving the animals chance to relocate again and make things more difficult.

The hippos new site in the river.
The hippos new site in the Luwombwa river.

Finally the hippos were darted and after waiting for the animals to subdue the team went in with a rope but as the animals were still conscience it was a great risk to go in the water. There was also a risk that the hippos would drown because of the depth of the water. The team found it very difficult to get a rope around a limb or head and the ropes keep slipping off.

At one point Pieter realised that the female hippo was not responding at all and would drown. He bravely dove into the water from the canoe, put a rope around one leg and shouted to the eager helpers on the bank to “PULL” the animal to the shallows. Ian Parsons did the same on the bull hippo and the hippos were pulled to shallower waters. The snares were cut off and the darts removed but during this procedure the calf stopped breathing.

The snares being removed from the hippos.
The snares being removed from the hippos.

“It was disappointing that I did not manage to save the young bull. I suspect that the drugs dose was overwhelming for him due to his poor condition, despite the fact that he was given only 75% of the usual dose for an animal of his size.” commented Ian Parsons.

The dart removal process.
The dart removal process.

The antidote was administered to the female after taking off the snare and administering of antibiotics. She recovered well and moved off into the water. The following morning she was still hanging around hoping to find her calf. She is being monitored for a few more days. For Kasanka and wildlife conservation it was a huge success despite the loss of the one animal. Good experience was gained from this incident and the team released that de-snaring operations are just as important as having poaching patrols in the field.

Removing the snare from the front leg of a hippo.
Removing the snare from the front leg of a hippo.

The Kasanka Trust wants to thank everybody for their advice, help and contribution. They still need some financial assistance to cover the costs of the rescue and any additional money they receive will be put in a emergency fund for incidents of a similar nature.

If you can assist in any way possible PLEASE contact Pieter Snyman, operational manager at Kasanka Trust: +26 0971 745231, pieter@kasanka.com.

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