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Pablo Escobar's African hippos are making the buzz

Hippos Pablo Escobar

Since the notorious Colombian drug trafficker Pablo Escobar brought four hippopotamuses from Africa, the animals have reproduced. The Colombian authorities have been considering a way to control the population for several months.

It is an incredible story that is that of the hippos of the famous deceased Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. In the midst of expanding his empire, in the 1980s, Escobar brought in four animal specimens illegally from Zimbabwe. Today, more than 80 of them live their lives in Puerto Triunfo Park, in the eastern center of Colombia's kingdom of the prince of cocaine, Medellín.

Originally, the hippos in question were part of the zoo that Pablo Escobar created on his property. Other animals imported from Africa were also part of it: ostriches, giraffes... but if less cumbersome animals have found a place in Colombian zoos, hippopotamuses, were much more difficult to manage.

Especially since in forty years, animals have proliferated, despite several waves of sterilizations. It was difficult for the Colombian authorities, who are very attentive to the food web and its balance. Only then, hippopotamuses only exist in Africa, and these "cocaine hippos" were only found in Colombia by the will of Escobar, who therefore continues from his grave to annoy the Colombian government.

Pablo Escobar's hippos, an insoluble problem for the state

Indeed, maintaining the animals costs the state $6 per year per hippopotamus. Their sterilization costs 000, not counting the cost of their tranquilization and travel, which amount to thousands of dollars just for the time of the operation.

In the meantime, the municipality of Doradal, the closest to the park which houses the hippos in question, has learned to live with the animals. They have even become an important source of income for the small town. What pose even more worries to the State.

In late April, to prevent the risk of overpopulation of the species, a prominent animal rights lawyer, Luis Domingo Gómez Maldonado, brought to justice a class action lawsuit that aims to control the problem without sacrificing the hippos. On the other hand, the scientists of the Cornare agency, assure that unless we continue to sterilize the animals, their population will exceed 1 in a few years.

Another concern, the hippos are also dangerous for the villagers of the region. "They are very aggressive animals, which are almost always in groups and in the open, so capturing them, in addition to being a very dangerous process, requires a lot of people and has a price that can reach 60 dollars for everyone,” says biologist David Echeverri.

As for the authorities of the countries of origin, namely Zimbabwe and probably Mozambique as well, they have expressed no interest in demanding the return of the hippos.

Read: Protected areas, an instrument of “green colonialism” in Africa?

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