DRASTIC STEPS: The Kruger National Park has begun culling hippos because the drought has caused food shortage for park animals. Picture: Jochen van de Perre

Cape Town - The Kruger National Park has started culling hippos and its buffalo will be next. Although the park, which is one of the largest game reserves in Africa, received rain in March, there is not enough food for the animals.

William Mabasa, spokesman for South African National Parks, said that 59 hippos had been culled and another 100 were in the firing line for later this year as well as 200 buffalo.

“The cull is not because of lack of water, we still have plenty of water after the rain we received in March, the problem is food,” Mabasa said.

He said many areas of the park, especially the central areas from Skukuza to Olifants River, were just barren land with no grass.

There are some 8 000 hippos in the park and around 300 had already died because of the drought.

Mabasa said the meat from the culled animals was currently being sold to staff.

“But we are in the process of getting our abattoir registered so that we can supply hippo meat to needy NGOs around the park.”

Kruger, which is already waging war on rhino and elephant poachers, last month lost a pack of African wild dogs, known as the Lower Sabie pack, to Canine distemper.

The disease commonly affects domestic dogs and can also spill over to the wildlife such as the African wild dogs, hyenas, lions and jackals.

“The exact source of the particular virus which affected this pack of wild dogs is not certain, but could have been due to contact with a feral dog or one of the other wildlife species infected by the disease,” Mabasa said.