Status and Conservation Challenges of the Common Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius Linnaeus 1758) in Bénoué National Park, North Cameroon

Mouliom Zouléatou Apouagouo

The hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius L.) is threatened by habitat destruction, poaching for their tusks (upper incisor and lower canine teeth) (Klingel, 2013) and threats linked to transhumance and gold diggers in its habitats are increasing rapidly in North Cameroon (Scholte et al., 2016). According to genetic analyses, West and Central African hippopotamus can offer unique genetic material and are an important target for conservation activities (Okello et al., 2005). However, the status of hippopotamus in northern Cameroon has remained poorly known until recently (Klingel 2013). According to the IUCN Red List (Lewison & Oliver Pluháček, 2017), the hippopotamus is widespread in Cameroon, with an estimated population of between 1500 and 2,000 individuals and the conservation status of the species in the country remain of concern. The lack of accurate and updated data on hippopotamus population trends led CITES and the European Union to suspend trade in hippopotamus trophies from Cameroon in 2012 (Scholte & Iyah, 2016).

In response to this suspension, a study was launched in 2013 to clarify the status of hippopotamus and identify the threats to their populations. This research carried out in the Bénoué National Park indicated a reduction in the number of hippopotami from 400 individuals in 1987 to 180 in 2013, negatively correlated with the presence of gold diggers (Scholte & Iyah, 2016).

Results of the most comprehensive survey to date, implemented in the Bénoué National Park in May 2016, showed only 136 individuals along the Bénoué River (Scholte & Iyah, 2016). Since this last survey in 2016, there is a lack of continuous ecological data on the species in this region. With a declining population showing by these previous research, focused conservation initiatives are imperative in the Bénoué National Park to better protect hippopotamus populations and inform conservation strategy.

We therefore plan through this project to combine local knowledge and new technologies to get information on the current state of hippopotamus populations in the Bénoué National Park to help the park's conservation service to better protect this charismatic species.

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