Eighty-Three Hippos Dead In Uganda

At least 83 hippopotamuses have been poisoned by anthrax at Uganda’s most popular game reserve and safari park.

The hippos died at Queen Elizabeth National Park, located in western Uganda and known for its population of around 100 mammal species and 615 species of birds. Apparently it is also the home of the anthrax poison, which emanates from bacteria that live in the soil surrounding one small lake in this vast park.

What Is Anthrax?

Anthrax spores occur naturally in soil and can remain dormant for years. Drought, floods or wind expose the spores and they can be ingested when livestock graze close to the ground.

A Repeat Performance

The park was hit by anthrax poisoning in 2004, when more than 300 hippos died from exposure to the lethal spore-forming bacteria. Tom Okello, area conservation manager for the park, told AFP that lessons were learned in this earlier incident and that officials are close to containing the current problem. “We really have improved,” he said. “The situation is under control.”

How Does Anthrax Spread?

Six years ago, some scientists believed that the large scale of the infection was caused by cannibalism. The New Scientist quoted Joseph Dudley, a biosecurity and agriculture analyst based in Washington, as saying: “The widespread mortality may be a result of the communal scavenging or ‘cannibalism’ of carcasses of anthrax-filled hippos by other hippos.”

Other veterinarians and scientists believed that the cause lay in over-crowding in the park. As The Daily Telegraph reports, these experts stated that over-population leads to fights over resources, and anthrax can be spread via battle wounds. Flesh-eating vultures and large cats are also known to spread the disease.

Callous Response

Whatever the cause of this outbreak, anthrax poisoning causes high fever and bleeding, amongst other symptoms. Yet park officials have apparently expressed no sadness over these deaths and the suffering the poor animals must have endured. Instead, Okello lost no time in reassuring potential visitors that all is well, since the poisonous bacteria is not near any areas tourists visit.

Pursuing that line, Nicholas Kauta, the national anthrax task force spokesman, was quick to say that no humans were known to have contracted the deadly disease during the outbreak and that tourism had been unaffected.

Maybe I’m being naive, but isn’t it the job of people running an animal park to care about  and protect both the animals and the visiting humans? Or maybe to show more concern for the animals than the humans, since we people are invading their homes, after all?

Whatever happened to compassion for animals?

Creative Commons - cumulius

263 comments

Joy Jin
Joy Jin8 years ago

Hippos are beautiful. This is so sad.

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SANDRA R.
SANDRA R8 years ago

Very sad!! Thank you Judy!!!

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Mary Ellen W.
Mary Wightman8 years ago

very disappointing. ALL life is valuable and important, not just the tourists....

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shannon bullaro
shannon bullaro8 years ago

such adorable big guys...so sad

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Nancy W.
Nancy W.8 years ago

I AGREE. The park officials SHOULD care more about what's happening to the Hyppos. Just because there's no immediate danger to tourists and other people doesn't mean that there WON'T be in the future. Something needs to be done NOW before there IS a danger to tourists and the general population. These officials either don't understand, or they're choosing the Ostrich way out, and pretending it doesn't MATTER.

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Shelley Yater
Past Member 8 years ago

Seems scary that i can be gardening and tap into anthrax? Could I?

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Peter De Leo
Peter Deleo8 years ago

First and foremost, I am a supporter of mother nature. She will always rule over all things real or imagined. If mother nature is fully responsible for the death of the Hippos, it is most likely an act of balance and natural selection. However, when Man is thrown into the picture there is always the possibility that this poisoning may somehow be connected to the choices and actions we make.

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Jose Ramon F.

Uganda should get rid of 83 corrupt officials to make up the difference. Seriously, why didn't they do something about the bacteria earlier?

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Ellinor S.
Ellinor S8 years ago

I feel sad for the hippos.

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Shelley Y.
Past Member 8 years ago

I know all living creatures are important to all of our survival. I don't have clue why i have always know that to the core of my being. I just know it. This must have been horrifying to the caretakers there, I am not sure, but I recall hearing that hippos do fight, and some will end up dying from fighting no matter how much land they have. Again, I am not sure, but I believe I remember that from grade school and a visit to the zoo. I am sorry for our loss of them, and their loss of their lives.

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