'Cocaine hippos' threaten ecosystems in Colombia

A herd of hungry hippos. That's Pablo Escobar's legacy in Colombia. And they're multiplying…

Wild hippos in Colombia have become a threat to the ecosystems

This is one of Pablo Escobar’s legacies. At his estate, Hacienda Nápoles, the famous drug trafficker imported nearly 2,000 exotic animals, such as elephants from India, rhinos from Africa or camels from the Sahara. After the death of the drug lord on December 2, 1993, the Colombian state seized the hacienda and the animals were sent to zoos.

Only the hippos, whose transportation was too expensive, were left on site. Left on their own at the abandoned menagerie, they proliferated. There were four of them upon arrival in the 1980s. Nowadays, there are reportedly more than 80. Once confined to the lakes of Pablo Escobar's property, they’re now regularly spotted in the Magdalena River and even in the streets of the village of Doradal. The hippos have even become a tourist attraction and the mascot of the region.

Despite the enthusiasm of some residents, these animals, native to Africa, are endangering local ecosystems. The mammals deposit large amounts of excrement in water sources. It acts as a fertilizer for bacteria and algae, which proliferate and can modify the ecosystem, causing the growth of toxic algae. To control their population, an area of 28 hectares is currently being fenced. A sterilization process was also instigated. There is also another alternative for this problem: find new areas to accommodate these animals. For the moment, no practical solution has been found. At this rate, the population could reach 1,000 in the next few decades.