Pablo Escobar may be long gone, but his hippos are still causing problems for Colombia

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REUTERS said that Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar may have died in 1993, but he’s left behind an unusual legacy: a herd of hippos.

Escobar bought four of the exotic creatures from a California zoo in the 1980s after getting rich, and transferred them to his sprawling ranch, Hacienda Napoles, located midway between his hometown of Medellin and the capital, Bogotá.

The hippos — three male and one female — were part of the menagerie that Escobar, a self-styled man of the people, opened to the public on one of his estates. Buses of schoolchildrenwould come to gape at giraffes, elephants, the hippos, and other animals.

The hippos have since thrived in his absence. There are believed to be more than 25 hippos currently roaming around Hacienda Napoles and the surrounding countryside.

‘The whim of a villain’

Pablo Escobar Colombia hippos MedellinA veterinarian prepares a hippopotamus, known as “Orion,” for dental treatment at the Zoo Santa Fe in Medellin, January 27, 2010. The hippo was born in the private Hacienda Napoles ranch that belonged to Pablo Escobar.

 

 

“In Africa they usually become sexually active between the ages of seven and nine for males, and nine and 11 for females, but Pablo Escobar’s hippos are becoming sexually active as young as three,” the BBC reported in mid-2014. “All the fertile females are reported to be giving birth to a calf every year.”

‘They are not a tame animal’

Many Colombians regard the hippos as a novelty, or as “cuddly” animals, and many people live and play in close quarters with them. But the hippos, which roam relatively unchecked throughout the countryside, pose dangers to both the population and the environment.

Hippos are territorial and can force native wildlife out of its natural habitat, Echeverri toldNational Geographic. He also said hippos’ waste could disrupt the ecology of Colombia’s lakes and rivers.

Hippo feces can accelerate eutrophication, an excess of nutrients that can lead to algae blooms that deplete oxygen in the water. “We have seen some possible evidence of this in the form of dead fish,” Echeverri said.

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