Endangered hippos are trapped in dried-up ponds in a drought-stricken African country

Botswana is home to one of the world's largest populations of hippos living in the wild.

Maun, Botswana:

Herds of endangered hippos stuck in the mud of dried-up ponds are at risk of dying in drought-hit Botswana, conservation authorities told AFP on Friday.

Southern Africa has been hit by a severe drought caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon, which has threatened harvests and left millions of people hungry. Several countries in the region recently declared a state of national disaster.

Near the vast wetlands of the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana, the dried-up Thamalakane River has forced herds of hippos to migrate to natural water reserves near the tourist town of Maun.

“The river system is drying up and the situation for the animals is in a compromised situation,” said Lesego Moseki, spokesperson for the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana.

Botswana is home to one of the world's largest populations of hippos living in the wild, estimated at between 2,000 and 4,000 by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“River vegetation is poor and the hippopotamus in Ngamiland (northwest district) is dependent on the water flowing through the Okavango Delta systems,” Moseki added. They were still investigating how many hippos had died in the pools, he said.

Hippos have thick but sensitive skin, which means they need to bathe regularly to avoid sunburn and usually live in humid areas.

Without water they can become aggressive and approach villages. Local authorities are calling for hippos to be moved to reserves to avoid conflicts with people.

El Nino is a naturally occurring climate pattern generally associated with increased heat worldwide, leading to drought in some parts of the world and heavy rainfall elsewhere.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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