An experimental approach to mitigating hippo human conflict

The common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) is one of a handful of extant African megaherbivore species. Unlike other megafauna, hippo are relatively underfunded and understudied. Hippo populations have declined substantially in Africa, and one reason is retributive killing as a result of conflict with people. Hippo human conflict increased by ~1200% over 10 years in some regions, and crop loss and human injury is substantial.

Relative to work done on human-predator or human-elephant conflict, very little has been done on hippo human conflict. This is despite the high mortality rates suffered by both humans and communities, and the damage that hippo can do to crops.

Moreover, while much experimental field work has been done on the mitigation of human predator/elephant conflict – practically nothing has been done on hippo. Past research has outlined some basic approaches used by poor rural people attempting to prevent crop raiding by hippo, such as lighting fires and digging trenches. But many other methods used regularly to deter elephant or even predators, such as visual, acoustic and olfactory deterrents have not been tested on hippo. Also, there has been no experimental approach to determine best combinations of interventions, or cost-effectiveness.

Here, a number of practical and affordable approaches designed to reduce crop raiding by hippo will be tested. The project will take an experimental field approach to test all approaches to deter hippo crop raiding, with important conservation outcomes. The work will likely be extended to include mitigation of hippo grazing competition with livestock.

Applicants with field experience in Africa are encouraged to apply.