Colombia is looking to transfer up to 70 of Pablo Escobar’s famous hippos out of the country as they continue to damage the local ecosystem and rapidly grow in population, according to CBS News. All descended from just four hippos that the drug lord imported from Africa in the 1980s, the hippos were too difficult to catch and officials thought they would die in the unfamiliar habitat.
Instead, the conditions proved perfect for the hippos, which have no official predators and are extremely territorial. Thirty years later, the 130-strong population roam Colombia and are considered one of the top invasive species in the world. The government and scientists have been considering their fate for years. Conservationists are concerned about the ecological damage they are doing to Colombia’s Magdalena River basin, and last year the Colombian government declared them an invasive species.
Colombian authorities decided back in 2009 to kill them off, sparking an outcry, and the plan never quite got off the ground, though it has since picked up speed. Colombian attorney Luis Domingo Gómez Maldonado filed a lawsuit in 2020 on the hippos’ behalf to save them from being euthanized, instead suggesting sterilization. Colombian officials agreed, and the plan to use chemical contraception to sterilize a portion of the main population started but has since been unsuccessful.
Now, the government plans to take a different approach and deport the hippos off to India and Mexico to control the growing population. The animals would be contained within sanctuaries and zoos, where they can live without harming ecosystems as an invasive species.
Some hippos live within the ranch and are contained within its walls, so would not be removed, while others have since spread to the surrounding areas and would be considered for movement. Officials believe it is more humane than simply exterminating them, and many countries have since expressed interest in taking some of the hippos.
Interestingly, Escobar’s hippos are the only animal in the world legally considered humans by the US after advocates argued for the use of a different sterilization drug last year. It shouldn’t have any impact on plans for their control, but it is bizarre that the only ones to be successful in this are the illegally imported “cocaine hippos”.