In his prime, Pablo Escobar imported a number of hippos to his private zoo in Colombia- dubbed the ‘cocaine hippos’. Now, the non-native hippo population has grown, and experts claim the species poses a significant livelihood and environmental risk.
Following Escobar’s death in 1993, the imported animals were left unattended, leaving the population to grow to upwards of 100.
Experts warn that this growth will only continue should the hippos undergo no form of population control, estimating numbers reaching up to 1,500 by 2040, by which point the damage will be irreversible.
Hippopotamus waste is toxic and poses a significant risk to local flora and animal life- including humans.
Last year, one of the ‘cocaine hippos’ bit and threw a Colombian farmer, breaking his hip, leg, and several ribs.
Unlikely as it may seem, the hippopotamus is the world’s deadliest land mammal, responsible for roughly 500 yearly deaths in Africa.
Ecologist Nataly Castelblanco-Martínez stated:
“Nobody likes the idea of shooting a hippo, but we have to accept that no other strategy is going to work. Relocation might have been possible 30 years ago, when there were only four hippos.”
Scientists have been attempting to stem the population growth through other, nonlethal means, however the solution comes too late, and with too little resource.
“Castration could also have been effective if officials had provided sufficient resources for the programme early on, but a cull is now the only option.”