Pablo Escobar’s ‘cocaine hippos’ became a massive tourist attraction at his luxury estate. But now, it seems that the majestic creatures have outstayed their welcome.
Scientists say the hippos—which weigh up to 4,000 pounds each—have been “getting busy” and took over Colombia’s rivers, poisoning the other wildlife with their toxic poop and urine.
Don’t worry, the large animals aren’t carrying cocaine— they are survivors from Escobar’s Hacienda Nápoles estate that he smuggled from a United States zoo in the 1980s. The kingpin initially smuggled one male and three female hippos.
After his passing and the demise of his cocaine empire, the hippos stayed in a pond in the Hacienda Nápoles before the offspring took over the Magdalena wetlands.
A recent VICE News documentary chronicles the battle between scientists who want to cull the hippos before they continue to destroy the environment and the locals who depend on the hippos for tourism.
Pablo Escobar’s ‘cocaine hippos’ in the Hacienda Nápoles.Photo courtesy of VICE News/YouTube
Tensions continued to grow after a research report in January called for the need to limit the hippo population. The hippo population catapulted to 80 last year, and sterilization efforts had little impact.
The documentary also notes that researchers estimated that the population would grow to more than 1,400 By 2039.
So what’s wrong with the hippos, exactly? Well, their poop creates algae blooms, and it also reduces oxygen for fish in the pond.
“The real problem with hippos is their uncontrollable reproduction, being such a territorial species, said government environmental researcher David Echeverri-Lopez to VICE. “It causes a lot of danger for the fishing population and other people who live in the area,” he continued.
Regardless, the hippos are famous amongst the locals and are a tourist attraction—there is a theme park and hippo safari tours.
As a result, this makes the hippo population ordeal tricky as scientists still can’t come on solid ground with one another about what to do.
The government attempted to manage the population by suggesting castration. Still, one hippo a year was the best the scientists could do because the hippos’ internal testes are hard to reach.
A previous attempt to cull the hippos was met with public opposition, but researchers still claim that sterilization is not enough.
“Sterilization alone is not going to be enough to control this invasion,” said Nataly Castelblanco-Martínez, an ecologist at the University of Quintana Roo. “If we cull a certain amount of individuals per year, it is possible to eradicate the population.”
VICE also states that Castelbalnco-Martínez believes that if 30 hippos each year are culled, there would be less competition for wildlife and cleaner waters.
Overall, culls seem very unlikely to happen due to the charismatic charm the hippos have in the hearts of many.