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02/12/2020

A Tale of the Hippo

A memoir from the Founder,

“Letaba River”
Nabunda Community
2006

When I realised a pod of hippos started to invade agricultural fields, I knew conflict between man and animal was inevitable. This scenario spelt disaster and certain death.

The reason for this unfortunate situation was the fact that it was playing off during a period of drought and, in combination with bad environmental management practises, it ultimately led to an unnaturally high hippopotamus population and subsequent starvation of the animals.. Standard Operational Procedure of the authority at the time would have been to incapacitate the “troublemaker” - generally the dominant and aggressive herd bull. This approach was NOT working, and drastic intervention was required. After discussions with all stakeholders, money was raised along with donations of lucerne (Alfalfa). The hippos were starving, and aggression increased rapidly. A professional team erected capture equipment and the donated food was used as bait. The very first night we caught four hippos and they were on their way to a new home! The operation continued for a week and in total 22 hippos could be translocated to better suited locations. All proceeds collected from this translocation was donated to the community that suffered losses caused by the starving animals.

The small group of hippos that was left behind, was content with the feeding opportunities and did not raid crop of the local population anymore. In fact, the good news continued.... the community immediately appointed a fencing contractor, and an electrified fence was erected around the fields. A new borehole was equipped, supplying the community with water without them having to obtain water from the usual borehole that was shared with the watering hole where the hippos have settled. We received news from a farmer, that soon after we donated several hippos to him, a calve was born and the group was doing very well after their lifechanging journey.

Events like this inspired me to never give up and always try to assist wherever possible. Many more brilliant moments could be shared about wildlife that left me speechless. Ultimately these events led to the formation of the Wildlife Protector Non-Profit Company. It was a very clear and easy decision to make and I can motivate it with this question: “... why do we have an official Public Protector, but no Wildlife Protector...”

Werner Booysen



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