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Escobar’s Hippos won’t fit in one’s Christmas stocking

Escobar’s Hippos won’t fit in one’s Christmas stocking

As the holidays rage on here in Antioquia we cast our one good eye to the east near the Magdalena River where wild, invasive hippos roam at will.

The herd has grown exponentially since the demise of infamous drug lord, Pablo Escobar (who smuggled four hippos out of a Texas zoo in 1980) and his short-lived exotic zoo in the midst of Colombia’s thriving waterways.

The often dangerous hippos had become a popular attraction, part of his massive 2,000-hectare Hacienda Napoles ranch in Puerto Triunfo, which featured an ostentatious Spanish colonial house, a landing strip, and a myriad of artificial lakes.

Escobar, flexing his cocaine fortune, wanted a truly exotic wildlife park, so he also brought rhinos, elephants, giraffes, ostriches and many more animals, calling it his “own Noah’s Ark.”

When Escobar was gunned down by the Colombian government the hippos escaped and are now at large with no known predators and an extended mating season due to a comfortable environment, much wetter than their original African home.

Scientists agree that any delay in controlling the burgeoning hippo population could have serious consequences.

“It is the biggest hippo herd outside Africa, just under 200

The animals are spreading across Colombia’s biggest river basin, from which many thousands of people make their living,” said one biologist. “There have been sightings of hippos as far as 370km from Hacienda Napoles.”

And so to meet the threat Colombia has begun sterilizing hippos, which does not sound like a particularly pleasant way to spend the afternoon. It’s either this procedure or euthanasia since the cost of relocation is exorbitant at best, even with dollars hovering from the now defunct War on Drugs.

The Magdalena River

The dismal failure of self-serving programs like this often contribute to a precarious live and let live attitude toward the territorial and dangerous mammals, which can easily weigh-in at 6500 pounds.*

Surgical darts packed with the drug GonaCon are the easiest way but sometimes the darts don’t penetrate the thick hide of the animals.

“It’s like trying to penetrate the mind of a cocaine user up north or in Europe,” said one veterinarian on the scene.

In chronic cases the animals must be captured, anesthetized, transported by helicopter, and surgically operated upon.

“This is very challenging and can be dangerous for both the people and hippos, an uninvited pet psychologist understated.

*Hippopotamuses kill more people annually than sharks