Up to 100 hippos, all derived from four animals illegally imported into Colombia by cocaine smuggler Pablo Escobar in the late 1980s, threaten Colombia’s swamps and river systems.
Scientists have told Daily Telegraph that the country must now eliminate the aggressive “cocaine hippos” that roam the Magdalena River Basin, as they breed insatiably in the country’s humid and warm climate. In their natural habitat in Africa, hippos have to contend with a long dry season.
Escobar, who was said to be worth a staggering $ 25 billion, making him the seventh richest man in the world, is known for buying lavish gifts and boasting that he sometimes literally burns money to keep warm. your family.
In 2020, a nephew found a $ 1
His zoo, full of elephants and hippos, was just another indulgence.
When he was shot dead in 1993, the Colombian government took control of his estate, including animals, most of which were either euthanized or sent to zoos and parks.
However, four hippos living in a remote pond escaped the slaughter; there are now dozens of them living in the wild. The exact number is unknown, but Telegraph puts the number between 80 and 100, which they say makes them the largest invasive species on the planet. Their numbers will swell to almost 1,500 by 2040 if left unchecked.
“No one likes the idea of shooting a hippopotamus, but we have to accept that no other strategy will work,” environmentalist Natalie Castelbanco-Martinez told The telegraph.
Hippos have become a local tourist attraction; paying visitors can tour Escobar’s former mansion and visit the lake, where several dozen hippos now live.
But researchers say hippos compete with local wildlife and pollute local waterways with their toxic urine and feces.
Hippos are known to be aggressive and kill more people each year than any other African mammal. Last year, a Colombian breeder was bitten by a hippopotamus and thrown into the air, breaking his leg, thigh and several ribs.
Another controversial method of controlling hippos, sterilization, has failed – due to the fact that male hippos have retractable testicles.
David Echevery Lopez, a state conservationist, told The telegraph that it is able to castrate approximately one hippopotamus per year, while scientists estimate that the population is growing by 10 percent per year.