Colombia Still Can’t Figure Out How To Manage Pablo Escobar’s Hippos

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A decades-in-the-making hippo problem continues in Colombia, as officials try to figure out just how to deal with an invasive hippo population continuing to plague the country decades after notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar brought them to the continent for his own private collection at the height of Escobar’s own personal excess, CBS reports.

There are not supposed to be hippos in Colombia, and there certainly should not be any in the country (or on the content for that matter) outside of zoos. Hippos are in fact native only to Africa.

Yet throughout the 1980s, when a cocaine trade unlike the world had ever seen was controlled by Escobar, his personal ranch included hundreds of exotic animals including not only the currently problematic hippos but also rhinoceroses, elephants, giraffes, and more. When Escobar’s reign came to an end with his death in 1993, the government took steps to relocate the exotic animal collection. The hippos, however, remained to roam free.

“People forgot the hippos,” said biologist David Echeverri, whose environmental group is currently responsible for tracking and managing the Escobar-linked invasive hippo population. “We can’t just kill the hippos and the other solution is relocating hippos, sterilizing hippos,” he said, while also indicating that tracking, capturing, and relocating the massive animals is an extremely expensive — and extremely dangerous — pursuit. Echeverri estimates that there are about 50 of the problematic hippos roaming the area, including near towns and people.

Locals describe the hippos, which can weigh as much as 3,000 pounds, with affection, though animal experts are clear in saying that the animals are not only enormous, but also dangerous and territorial.

While there have been no confirmed hippo attacks in Colombia, the animals are actually responsible for more human deaths than any other African animal, a grisly accomplishment considering the variety of dangerous species on that continent.

The hippos were largely confined to Escobar’s former estate, which has since been turned into a theme park. The animals were in fact a tourist attraction and a tangible relic of the wild excess in which Escobar once lived on the almost unimaginable income he generated trafficking cocaine. The theme park boasts that it’s the only location in the world outside of Africa where you can see a legitimate pack of wild hippos.

Yet over the years, hippos have started to escape the confines of the property, venturing to surrounding areas and even breeding outside the bounds of the estate. As this constitutes, pressure will doubtlessly increase for the government and Echeverri to come up with a more aggressive solution to the problem, but with limited access to funds and limited public support for hippo killing, the problem remains for now.