Hippos are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Unregulated hunting for their meat, skin, and teeth, combined with shrinking habitats and increased hippo-human conflict have lead to a decline in populations across Africa. At the current rates, the species could disappear within a century.
A new study says that a rise in demand for hippos’ teeth is threatening the mammal with extinction. Hippo teeth are easier to smuggle than elephant tusks. Additionally, they are not protected especially well at either a national or international level. The problems here are that not only is it impossible to guarantee that a hippo tooth is legally sourced but that overall quotas are often massively exceeded. We have created a situation where “some” hippos can be shot, but we have few effective ways to regulate the trade, leaving it wide open to abuse.