Jason Wapiennik Mr. Trippeer, Biology January 6th, 1997The ban on elephant ivory trading has slowed down the poaching of elephants, butnow poachers are getting their ivory from another creature, the hippopotamus.
For the poacher, the hippo is an easy target. They stay together for long hoursin muddy water pools, as many as eighty-one can be found in a single square mile. This concentration is so big it’s only second to that of the elephant. Poachers kill the animal, then pick out the teeth and sell them for as much asseventy dollars per kilo. This is a very cheap price.
Elephant ivory sells foras much as five-hundred dollars per kilo. The reason the price-per-kilo is soslow is because hippo ivory is very brittle compared to the much strongerelephant ivory. Elephant ivory is no longer at the biggest risk for poaching; hippo ivory is. Eastern Zaire once had one of the largest hippo populations in the world, around23,000 hippos.
According to a count done in 1994, this number has now droppedto 11,000. The 1989 ban on elephant ivory is the main cause attributed to theexponential rise to hippo ivory trade. “European and African activists are petitioning advocacy groups, including lastweek’s annual Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in Florida,for a ban on hippo poaching. But they say they’re a long way from putting anend to the slaughter.
” (Howard ; Koehl)The hippopotamus is an enormous amphibious animal with smooth, hairless skin. Hippos can be found in Liberia, the Ivory Coast, and a few can also be found inSierra Leone and Guinea. Hippos used to be found anywhere south of the SaharaDesert where they could find enough water and plenty of room to graze. Now, dueto poachers and predation they are confined to protected areas, but they canstill sometimes be seen in many major rivers and swamps.
Hippos need water that is deep enough to cover them, but it also has to be veryclose to a pasture. They must wallow in the water because their thin, hairlessskin is vulnerable to overheating and dehydration. Hippos were once thought tosweat blood. Actually, hippos secrete a pinkish colored oil that helps themkeep their skin moist in the hot African climate. Hippos are herbivores.
They prefer the short grass of African plains to anyother possible food. They normally eat up to eighty-eight pounds of this grassnightly, which they mow away a large patch at a time with their twenty-inchmuscular lips. Hippos spend most of their days in the water or wallowing in themud, only coming up on land to feed at night. Hippos defecate in the water.
Their dung provides essential basic elements forthe food chain. Tiny microorganisms feed on it and then larger animals feed onthose organisms. On land, hippos’ large bodies make trails through thevegetation that other animals may use for easy access to water holes. Becausehippos’ favorite food is short grass, they keep these grasses well-trimmed whichmay help to prevent grass fires. Hippos are an important part of the Africanecosystem. If the hippos become extinct, and the likelihood grows more and more each day,the repercussions it may have on the fragile African ecosystem are tremendous.
Imagine a brush fire consuming acres of previously-livable land under the hotAfrican sun. These people have no way to put out fires like we do here in theU. S. . The fires in California were barely maintainable.
In short, if the hipposdie, everything dependent on the hippo and it’s way-of-life also suffers. BibliographyBrust, Beth W. Zoobooks: Hippos. San Diego: Wildlife Education, Ltd. , 1989.
Estes, Richard. The Safari Companion. Simon & Schuster, 1991. MacDonald, David (ed.
). The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Vol. 2. London: George,Allen & Unwin, 1984.
Redmond, Ian. “Africa’s Four Legged Whale,” Wildlife Conservastion. Jan.-Feb.1991, pp 60-69.Category: Social Issues .