Authorities in Colombia have devised a plan with zoos and wildlife sanctuaries in India, Mexico and Ecuador to rehome a group of invasive and territorial hippos descended from Pablo Escobar’s exotic animal collection.
Colombia is considering relocating 72 hippopotamuses to India and Mexico as part of a plan to control the invasive species, authorities said on Thursday.
The hippos, who are territorial and weigh three tons, are descended from the four hippos that were illegally imported from Africa by drug lord Pablo Escobar in the 1980s.
When police killed Escobar in 1993 and his Hacienda Napoles ranch was left abandoned, the hippos escaped and reproduced. The animals and the ranch itself have now become minor tourist attractions.
Scientists say the invasive hippos threaten the local ecosystem because they do not have a natural predator in Colombia and their feces changes the composition of nearby rivers, which affects manatees, capybaras and other animals. One local farmer was seriously injured after one of the hippos attacked him in 2020.
What will happen to the hippos?
The plan is to lure the hippos into large iron containers using food, and then transport them to the airport in Rionegro.
From there, around 60 of the hippos would be flown to the Greens Zoological Rescue & Rehabilitation Kingdom in the Indian state of Gujarat, while 10 would be flown to various zoos and sanctuaries around Mexico. Two more hippos could also be sent to Ecuador.
Departmental officials in Antioquia said the plan has been in the works for more than a year.
“It is possible to do, we already have experience relocating hippos in zoos nationwide,” said David Echeverri López, a spokesperson for local environmental authority Cornare, which would be in charge of the relocations.
zc/sms (AP, EFE)