Positive Environment News

Anthrax Kills 18 Hippos in Ugandan National Park

Date: 31-Jan-05
Country: UGANDA
Author: Daniel Wallis

Last year's anthrax outbreak littered the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth Park with rotting hippo carcasses and forced the temporary suspension of popular tourist boat rides while heavy cranes hauled the huge bodies from the water.

The park, which is home to about half Uganda's 10,000 hippos, attracts many of the tens of thousands of foreign tourists who visit the east African country every year.

But officials at the Uganda Wildlife Authority say that while its outbreak struck at the height of the tourist season, there had been no significant drop in visitors.

Nicholas Kauta, chairman of the Ugandan government's anthrax taskforce, told Reuters after returning from the park: "Eighteen hippos in total have died in the space of about two weeks, but in the last few days we have only recorded one death."

He said hippo bodies had been recovered from Kisenyi and Kasenyi landing sites, as well as from the Kazinga Channel, which links Lake George and Lake Edward, about 350 km (220 miles) southwest of the capital Kampala.

Anthrax occurs when animals eat remnants of vegetation in the driest months of September and October, absorbing bacterial spores that can live for decades in dry soil.

Wildlife officials in the area have warned the public not to touch any dead animals. They rejected a report by a Kampala radio station that said two villagers had died after eating infected hippo meat.

The cause of last year's outbreak was not clear.

But officials say similar weather patterns may have sparked simultaneous cases of the disease that also killed hundreds of big game animals in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.

Before it was contained in those countries, it had killed more than 2,000 wild animals, including elephants and buffaloes.

© Thomson Reuters 2005 All rights reserved

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