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CITES mulls tightening rules around trade in endangered species

Hippos in the Rusizi National Park in Burundi   -  
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Fernando Vergara/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved. -

Burundi

The Rusizi National Park in Burundi covers more 10 000 hectares. 

The dominant species here is the hippo, often the target of poachers who kill it for its meat or farmers who fear damage to their crops.

"There are in fact traps that are very common against hippos in the locality of Gatumba. Those who have dug pit traps, and when the hippos fall there, it is death. The perpetrators were farmers", denounced Jean-Bosco Sinzohagera, ranger at the Ruzizi National Park.

Numbers of hippos have recently increased but decades of civil war in Burundi have severely reduced their habitat.

"We notice that the number of hippos has increased significantly (in this area), it is noticeable because for example, sometimes, we observe conflicts of territories between hippos, and we say that it is due to the fact that their number has increased compared to the surface they must share", explained Pacifique Ininahazwe, chief wildlife conservationist at the Ruzizi National Park.

A government ban on the hunting of hippos remains in force, but a killing can be ordered when a hippo is proven to be a danger to inhabitants.

"We need to make an inventory. The issue is that it requires a lot of money. Elsewhere, when we do an inventory and notice that the population has increased in relation to the surface area we authorise selling a part of our hippo populations, perhaps the oldest ones, to revalue (cull them for their meat, Ed.) them before they can kill each other or die", concluded the chief wildlife conservationist.

Over the next two weeks in Panama, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora or (CITES) will consider tightening trade regulations on around 600 plants and animals potentially at risk of extinction.

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