Colombia To Declare Escobars Cocaine Hippos As Invasive Species To Cull Numbers

The Colombian authorities have announced they will declare deceased drug lord Pablo Escobar’s herd of ‘cocaine hippos’ an invasive species as a way of tackling their growing numbers.

Escobar, who was shot dead in December 1993, bought four hippos for his Hacienda Napoles estate in the town of Puerto Triunfo in the north-western Colombian department of Antioquia, which have now become a family of around 130.

Many of Escobar’s other animals were captured and relocated after his death. However, the hippos proved difficult to catch and have multiplied in number.

The injuries of Jhon Aristides Saldarriaga Marquez, 31, who was attacked by a hippo while fishing in a lake near Hacienda Napoles, Colombia, 31st October. (Newsflash)

They were allowed to stay on the land, but soon escaped to an area around the Magdalena River after the drug lord suffered a fatal gunshot through the ear while trying to flee the authorities.

Jorge Caro Lopez, a vet at Hacienda Napoles, now a theme park, said they already inhabit various areas in the sub-region of Magdalena Medio Antioquia, adding that some areas “look like Africa”.

Scientists warn that these animals do not have a natural predator in Colombia and are a potential problem for biodiversity, since their faeces affect rivers and the habitat of local manatees and capybaras.

The lake near Hacienda Napoles, Colombia, where Jhon Aristides Saldarriaga Marquez, 31, was attacked by a hippo, on 31st October. (Newsflash)

In May 2019, a large hippo was filmed walking around a residential area as dogs barked at it. The incident was filmed by a stunned onlooker in the municipality of Doradal.

A hippo attacked a man fishing with his son on 31st October last year, leaving him hospitalised.

Colombian Environment Minister Carlos Eduardo Correa has said the animals will be declared an invasive alien species and the law will come into effect in the coming weeks.

The lake near Hacienda Napoles, Colombia, where Jhon Aristides Saldarriaga Marquez, 31, was attacked by a hippo, on 31st October. (Newsflash)

The government announced it will assemble a team of experts to draw up plans for how to deal with the 130 hippos, expected to reach 400 by the end of the decade if their breeding is not controlled.

The Environment Minister said: “There are discussions about the many actions that can be done, but it would be irresponsible for me to guess what the final management plan will be.

“There is talk of castration, sterilisation, of euthanising some specimens. What is important here is the technical and scientific rigour with which these decisions are made.”

A small hippo playing with a dog in Doradal, Colombia. (Newsflash)

He also said that communities in the area will be consulted while the control plan is being drawn up.

However, animal activists and some local residents oppose the plan to declare the ‘cocaine hippos’ as an invasive species and introduce sterilisation and death as a possible solution, warning that they are willing to protest if the law is changed.