How Pablo Escobar changed part of the South American fauna with ”Cocaine Hippos” maybe forever
Most people in the Continent of America don’t need to worry about being run over by hippos who happened to be in a bad mood. However, the same can not be said for part of Colombians who have to deal with Pablo Escobars legacy the “Cocaine Hippos”.
Hippopotamuses are able to run at speeds of 20 miles per hour on land and are able to take down even lions in their path. Adult hippo weight is around 1,5 tons for males and females average and even heavier than 3 tons hippos have been reported. Hippopotamuses are known as the deadliest large land mammal who kill about 500 people per year in Africa.
Surprisingly, like many other Colombia’s problems, even the hippo problem is reported to be because of the drug lord Pablo Escobar who was responsible for 80% of the world’s international cocaine trade.
Pablo Escobar was certainly a very controversial personality. Most part of his known life and actions are linked to being the world’s most famous criminal in the late decades of the last century. But there are also some other things about his life not so well known and told publicly.
The drug kingpin who was making about $70 million a day supported poor and was a man of the people, nicknamed “Robin Hood.”. As he had housing projects in poor neighborhoods in Colombia where he built schools, hospitals, sports fields and renovated parks and stadiums.
Pablo Escobar also had the addiction to animals and built his own private zoo on an estate known as Hacienda Napoles. It was a public zoo which was full of exotic animals like lions, giraffes, ostriches, ponies, elephants and and he also brought there four hippos.
The three females and one male Hippopotamus amphibius, who were named “El Viejo”, which means “The Old One”, were brought in early 1980-s from a zoo in California. That’s where our story starts.
The Colombian government took control of Pablo Escobars luxurious estate in northwestern Colombia, including his personal zoo, after Pablo Escobar was shot dead in 1993. However, the government was not able to manage the zoo and Escobar’s zoo was split up and donated to other zoos. With some exceptions which two of them were the hippo harem and some rhinos as they were too difficult to relocate.
As the zoo was under managed the electric fence which broke was not repaired, both rhinos and hippos escaped to wilderness. The wildlife experiment had started. Rhinos did not survive in the Colombian nature but hippos on the other hand started multiplying.
It is estimated that at the moment about 60 hippos live near Magdalena River which is perfect place for hippos there. And only three dozen hippos live in the pond at Hacienda Napoles. Now Colombia has to deal with the largest invasive animal species in the world. Wild hippos who are all descended from El Viejo and his three hippo companions in the Colombian countryside.
At the moment the Colombian hippo population is growing at a rate of 6 percent a year. For over a decade the Colombian government has been dealing to control the growing population. First it was ordered by authorities the hippos, two adults and a calf, to be hunted down and killed as they were damaging crops and endangering humans.
However, animal rights advocates were against the killing as hippos are considered vulnerable to extinction. And suggest hippos to be captured and kept in a safe place until a permanent refuge is found. Strategy that is largely supported by conservation experts is to control the growing population which Colombian government is not able to manage.
Colombian hippos are the only ones known, pack of hippos, living in wildlife outside of Africa. The fact itself that there are wild hippopotamuses that have survived in South America and multiply is a wonderful story of survival. How local people have to deal and live with it is not yet known.
Pablo Ecobar Zoo in Wikipedia