By Anchen Lyu, age 8
Hippopotamuses, which are native to Africa, are semi-aquatic animals, meaning that they live both in water and on land. An adult male hippo can weigh up to 9,000 pounds, but they are still very good swimmers. Hippo populations have been dropping due to habitat loss caused by climate change and hunting. As hippos are reliant on freshwater systems, they are often threatened by drought and the loss of grazing areas.
Poachers hunt hippos for their meat, skin and ivory teeth. Unfortunately, hippos are also considered a threat to humans. They are the world’s second-deadliest animal, killing around 500 people per year. Interestingly, humans also rely on hippos. Their dung provides nutrients to Africa’s aquatic ecosystem, according to a study by Douglas McCauley at the University of California, Santa Barbara. As their numbers have decreased, so has the nutrient balance within local freshwater systems.
Hippopotamuses have been classified as vulnerable since 2016. About 3,081 hippos are killed per year for their body parts, with hippo teeth exports increasing by 530% in the last decade alone, according to Save Animals Facing Extinction. There are only 125,000 to 148,000 common hippos now left in the wild. As a result, wildlife protection groups have recently petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for hippos to be declared an endangered species. This would prevent most hippo items from being bought and sold in the United States. “Limiting U.S. imports by listing hippos under the Endangered Species Act will grant them important protections and will set the stage for other countries to follow,” said Tracie Letterman, vice president of federal affairs for the Humane Society Legislative Fund. “We will not sit back and watch hippos vanish.”