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Pablo Escobar’s Horny Cocaine Hippos Are Devastating Environment With Toxic Faeces

by : Hannah Smith on : 04 Jun 2021 11:57
Pablo Escobar's Horny Cocaine Hippos Are Devastating Environment With Toxic FaecesPexels/PA Images

Colombian scientists say hippos first imported by Pablo Escobar have grown so out of control they may have to be exterminated.

The species, sometimes referred to as ‘cocaine hippos,’ are descended from four animals that were illegally smuggled into the country from an American zoo by the notorious drug lord in the 1980s.

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Since Escobar’s death in 1993, the hippos have continued to thrive in the wild, breeding wildly and taking over rivers and lakes around the kingpin’s former Hacienda Nápoles estate near his hometown of Medellín.

Hippos were first imported by Pablo Escobar in the 1980s (PA Images)PA Images

The cocaine hippo population has exploded to more than 80, with conservationists estimating that at the rate they’re breeding, by 2039 the figure will be at around 1,400.

And while the animals have become a popular attraction with tourists visiting the area – especially following the success of the Netflix series Narcos – unfortunately, the hippos have proved bad news for the local ecology.

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As an ‘invasive species’ with no natural predators, the hippos now dominate the area’s Puerto Triunfo ecosystem, taking resources from local wildlife. Apparently, even their faeces is a problem; the hippos’ excrement is causing toxic algae to grow in the local rivers and reducing oxygen for native fish, VICE reports.

All in all, it’s a problem that experts say needs fixing before it gets even worse. The government has tried to send scientists in to castrate the male hippos to prevent further breeding, but with vets only managing to snip about one hippo per year, the effort isn’t making much of a difference.

Now, a more radical solution has been proposed, with a population study in January raising the possibility of introducing a hippo cull to permanently eradicate the species.

The hippos have become a popular tourist attraction (PA Images)PA Images
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Speaking to VICE, study co-author Nataly Castelblanco-Martínez said:

For me what is necessary here is to protect and preserve the integrity of our ecosystem over an exotic species, even if this exotic species is super charismatic and super cute.

Castelblanco-Martínez believes that a cull of around 30 hippos per year would enable them to reduce, and eventually eliminate, the species before they grow to numbers that make them impossible to control.

While it may be the smart plan from an environmental perspective, getting rid of the cocaine hippos is likely to face strong opposition not only from tourists and animal rights activists, but also the huge local economy that has sprung up around the animals, with several safari tours and hospitality services in Medellín relying on the hippos’ popularity.

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Featured Image Credit: Pexels/PA Images

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VICE News
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