How to Kill a Hippo

Hippopotamus“We used a spear, something made a metal, sharpened. We connected it with a very long rope. Then we go on the boat looking for the hippopotamus. When we find it, we are very close to it and apply the spear. The spear has a hook at one end. When it goes into its body, it won’t get out. Then we start travel ling, using some other spears, controlling the hippo with the long rope. When it tries to go away, we pull the rope so it hurts.

“With so many spears the hippopotamus is getting killed. If it comes near the boat, we have the spears so we strike it. This can be more than one hour. It depends how fast you are. When it starts sinking down in the water, that is very good. Everyone is very happy. You can have two boats. Or one boat depending on its size. In the boat might be five or six people.

At the end of the time you pull it to a convenient place where you can slaughter it and get the meat. We have other knives that we use. We normally take everything. We kill it in the heart areas and the neck. We go to the place where the depth of the water is low.

“One side of the river is where the water is high, the other side it is low. We push the hippopotamus alongside the riverbank. We start slaughtering there in the water. Cutting off the legs and all these things. In those days when I was boy the government did not care about the killings of these animals. No permission was needed. So there was always a supply of meat. We just decide. But the killing of the hippopotamus is so dangerous we did it only once or twice a year. Some of the people, they were wounded.

“Nowadays it is not allowed. Last week, at Luhombero, a man was caught with some meat—an elephant or a buffalo—and he was sent to jail. The leader of the village caught the man and he was sent to jail for fifteen years. He didn’t kill the animal. He bought the meat from somewhere. If he had the money to pay the authorities, he would not go to jail. The fine is something like twelve thousand dollars. Nobody would ever have that amount. But still animals are reduced in numbers because there is a great deal of poaching.” — Fr. Placid