Pablo Escobar’s last laugh — Are the drug lord’s hippos taking over Colombia?

Written By: Efrain Consuegra, from Colombia

Turns out he’s got the last laugh.

Here is another intriguing story about the legacy of Colombia’s most infamous historical figure — Pablo Escobar. Apparently, the man who brought a whole nation to its knees and practiced extortion on countless people using his infamous phrase — Plata o Plomo (Silver or lead), had a liking for hippos.

How are Escobar’s hippos a danger to humans and the environment?

Do not be fooled by the hippos derpy appearance! They might look slow and cuddly, but hippos are extremely dangerous. People in Africa know full well to stay away from them.

Unfortunately this is not the case in Colombia, as there have been reports of people feeding the calves, taking them home, and of kids sharing the a pond with them.

They have already caused damage to farms and have been seen in towns. Hippos kill more people in Africa than any other animal.

(David Echeverri, a researcher with the Colombian government environmental agency.)

But how did these African natives ended in Colombia?

Hacienda Napoles main entrance

Well as the video below shows, Escobar build himself a safari on his personal ranch Hacienda Napoles, located halfway in between Medellin and the capital city of Bogota. This safari contained all kinds of exotic animals such as elephants, giraffes, and, yeah you guessed it, hippos. After his death, the property was confiscated by the Colombian government and most of the animals got relocated to zoos. Eventually, the ranch was transformed into a zoo and theme park with waterslides (Learn about the theme park here). However, Pablo’s four hippos (three females and one male) never left and they rapidly thrived in the ranch’s pond. Now, they are increasingly becoming a safety concern for nearby locals and an environmental issue as well.

What about the numbers?

Hippos in Colombia (Photo credit: Getty images)

The constant rain and lack of competition makes these areas in Colombia the perfect living environment for the animals to reproduce. They are already reproducing at a faster rate than their counterparts in Africa. In an interview with National Geographic, David Echeverri, the researcher, stated that there about 26 to 28 hippos in the ranch. However, because these are territorial animals that lived in harems, many have been forced to migrate outside the ranch and into nearby areas such as the Magdalena River. In total, Echeverri believes there can be a total of around 40 hippos, and in a nearby future this number could increase to 100!

Any hope or is it planet of the hippos?

Vet Carlo Valderrama (Photo credit: BBC News)

Environmentalist and researchers know of the raising concerns with the expanding hippo population, this is why many of them referred to this issue as a ticking time bomb. By far the most ideal solution will be to relocate the animals, but moving something that weighs on average 3,300lbs is not an easy job. The funding for some project of such magnitude is not there and even if there was there is no many places that will want to take those animals. Even zoos have rejected the adults and have only taken the calves.

Well if relocation is out of the door, what else? So far castration to control the population has been the tactic that has put in practice the most. Nonetheless, this tactic has not only proven ineffective for the dangers sedation post on hippos, but it also dangerous for vets. Extreme solutions such as killing or even eaten the animals have also been proposed by, we will say, “unique” minds. Furthermore, whatever the proposal, there is seems to be always backlash against them, specially by locals who have become attach to the lovable mammals.

Poster for Pablo’s Hippos documentary

One thing is for sure, something needs to be done before people in Colombia finds themselves living in the planet of the hippos.