Pablo Escobar: Colombia will send 70 “cocaine-addicted hippos” to India and Mexico, according to the governor


Colombia plans to airlift dozens of its “cocaine-addicted hippos” – the descendants of drug trafficker Pablo Escobar’s private menagerie – to new homes in India and Mexico in a bid to control their burgeoning population, according to the local governor.

There are now between 130 and 160 hippos, according to the Colombian government, and they have spread far beyond Escobar’s former ranch, Hacienda Napoles, where they started as a population of just one male and three females.

The original hippos were part of a collection of exotic animals that Escobar amassed in the 1980s on his ranch about 250 kilometers (155 miles) from Medellín. After his death in 1993, authorities moved most of the other animals, but not the hippos, because they were too difficult to transport.

But they have since started reproducing rapidly, extending their range along the Magdalena River basin, and they now pose an environmental challenge and concern to nearby residents, authorities say.

A study published in the journal Nature warned that their number could reach 1,500 within two decades.

Previously, the authorities tried to control their population using castrations and “blows” with contraceptive darts. But contraceptive campaigns have had limited success.

There is now a plan to transfer 70 of the hippos to natural sanctuaries in India and Mexico, the governor of the province of Antioquia, where Hacienda Napoles is located, said in a statement. Tweeter.

A total of 70 hippos, a mix of males and females, are expected to be moved, including 60 to India and 10 to Mexico.

The technical term for this operation is “translocation”, Governor Aníbal Gaviria explained in an interview with Colombian media outlet Blu Radio, as it would involve moving the hippos from a country that was not their natural habitat to another that was not their natural habitat either. .

The goal was “to take them to countries where these institutions have the capacity to receive them, to (host) them properly and to control their reproduction,” Gaviria said.

Sending the hippos back to their native land in Africa was “not allowed”, Gaviria said.

Sending the hippos back to Africa risked doing more harm than good, both for the hippos themselves and for the local ecosystem, María Ángela Echeverry, a professor of biology at Javeriana University, previously told CNN.

“Whenever we move animals or plants from one place to another, we are also moving their pathogens, bacteria and viruses. And we could bring new diseases to Africa, not just for the hippos that are there in the wild, but new diseases for the whole African ecosystem that have not evolved with this type of disease,” Echeverry said.

In addition to reducing the number of hippos in Colombia, authorities hope to learn how to manage the remaining population, which is recognized as a potential tourist attraction.

The hippos will fly in specially designed boxes, Gaviria said in the radio interview, and will not be sedated at first.

But “emergency sedation” is possible if one of the animals gets nervous during the flight, he added.

The translocation could be completed by the first half of this year if the necessary permits are expedited, particularly from the Colombian Agricultural Institute, Gaviria said.

Hippos are considered by some to be an invasive species that can pose a danger to local ecosystems and sometimes even humans.

Research has highlighted the negative effects hippo waste can have on oxygen levels in water bodies, which can affect fish and ultimately humans.

Nature magazine cited a 2019 article that found lakes where hippos were present had more cyanobacteria, which are associated with toxic algae. These blooms can reduce water quality and cause mass fish kills, affecting local fishing communities.

Hippos can also pose a threat to agriculture and human safety, according to a biological conservation study published in 2021. Hippos can eat or damage crops and engage in aggressive interactions with humans.

“Hippos live in herds, they are quite aggressive. They are very territorial and are general plant eaters,” Prof Echeverry said.

While “cocaine hippos” are not native to Colombia, the local terrain is considered favorable for their breeding, as it has shallow water sources and a high concentration of food.

So far, Colombia has been unable to resolve a problem that – in Gaviria’s words to Blu Radio – “has gotten out of hand”.

It remains to be seen whether the latest efforts will succeed where birth control efforts have failed.


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