Colombia wants to relocate Pablo Escobar’s multiplying 'cocaine hippos'

They have no natural predators in the small nation and are growing out of control.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Colombia's hippo population is out of control.jpg
Representational image: Colombia's hippo population is out of control.


In the late 1980s, Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar imported several hippos to his Hacienda Napoles ranch, located about 125 miles from Bogota along the Magdalena River. Now, they have become a problem for the small nation as they keep multiplying and have no natural predators.

This is according to a report by CBS News published on Friday.

The animals are descendants of four hippos imported from Africa illegally and weigh up to 3 tons each. Authorities are now considering sending the hippos to India and Mexico as part of a plan to control their population.

Environmental authorities estimate there are about 130 hippos in the area in Antioquia province, and their population could reach 400 in eight years due to favorable climatic conditions and many rivers. They do have one advantage: they have become a sort of local tourist attraction.

However, that’s not enough to make up for the fact that their feces change the composition of the rivers and could impact the habitat of manatees and capybaras. In 2021, they were declared a toxic invasive species by Colombia's government.

Popular amongst the locals

They are popular amongst the locals who refer to them as “pets,” but a local biologist told CBS News correspondent Manuel Bojorquez in 2019 that the "dangerous" and "territorial" species is anything but. 

This did not stop activists from suing the Colombian government in 2021 over its plan to sterilize or kill the animals. At the time, a federal court ruled that the hippos can be recognized as people or "interested persons" with legal rights in the U.S.

The large mammals have been known to cause deaths in other territories like in Africa, but none have been reported thus far in Colombia. Experts argue it’s only a matter of time until the animals harm someone.

That’s why the plan to send them abroad is so important. The hippos would be lured into crates and sent to India and Mexico, where there are sanctuaries and zoos capable of taking in and caring for the animals.

"It is possible to do, we already have experience relocating hippos in zoos nationwide," said David Echeverri López, a spokesman for Cornare, the local environmental authority that would be in charge of the plan to relocate the animals safely, told CBS News.

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