Pablo Escobar: Colombia to send 70 ‘cocaine hippos’ to India and Mexico, governor says



Colombia plans to fly dozens of its “cocaine hippos” — descendants of drug trafficker Pablo Escobar’s private menagerie — to new homes in India and Mexico, according to the local governor.

According to the Colombian government, there are now between 130 and 160 hippos, and they have spread far from the former ranch of Escobar’s Hacienda Napoles, where they started as a population of just one male and three females.

The original hippos were part of a collection of exotic animals that Escobar amassed on his ranch in the 1980s. About 250 km (155 mi) from Medellin. After his death in 1993, authorities relocated most of the other animals, but not the hippos – because they were too difficult to transport.

But they have since begun to reproduce rapidly, expanding their reach Magdalena River BasinAnd they now pose an environmental challenge to nearby residents, officials say.

A study in the journal nature warned that their numbers could reach 1,500 within two decades.

First, the authorities have tried to control their population by using castrations “Shots” of contraceptive darts. But contraceptive drives have had limited success.

The governor of Antioquia province, where Hacienda Napoles is located, said there are now plans to relocate 70 hippos to sanctuaries in India and Mexico. tweet.

A total of 70 hippos, a mix of male and female, are expected to be transferred – with 60 going to India and 10 to Mexico.

The technical term for this operation is “translocating,” Governor Anibal Gaviria said in an interview. Columbia’s outlet Blue RadioBecause it would involve transporting hippos from a country to a country that was not their original habitat that was not even their natural habitat.

The goal was to “take them to countries where these institutions have the capacity to receive them, and to (house) them properly and control their reproduction,” Gaviria said.

Returning the hippos to their native Africa was “not allowed,” Gaviria said.

Repatriating hippos to Africa risks doing more harm than good to both themselves and the local ecosystem, Maria Angela Echeverri, a biology professor at the University of Javeriana, previously said. explained to CNN.

“Whenever we move animals or plants from one place to another, we also transfer their pathogens, their bacteria and their viruses. And we can bring new diseases to Africa, not just for wild animals, but new diseases for the whole African ecosystem that haven’t evolved with this kind of disease,” Echeverri said.

In addition to reducing the number of hippos in Colombia, officials are hoping to learn how to manage the remaining population, which is recognized as a potential tourist attraction.

The hippos will be flown in purpose-built boxes, and will not be euthanized at first, Gaviria said in the radio interview.

But “emergency sedation” is possible if one of the animals is hypnotized during flight, he added.

Gaviria said the translocation could be completed by the first half of this year if the necessary permits are expedited, particularly from the Agricultural Institute of Colombia.

Hippos are seen by some as an invasive species that can pose a threat to local ecosystems and sometimes even humans.

Research has highlighted the negative effects of hippo waste on oxygen levels in water bodies, which can affect fish and ultimately humans.

nature The magazine cited a 2019 paper that found lakes where hippos were present had more cyanobacteria, which are associated with toxic algae. These blooms can degrade water quality and cause large-scale fish kills, affecting local fishing communities.

According to a biological conservation study published in 2021, hippos may also pose a threat to agriculture and human security. Hippos can eat or damage crops and engage in aggressive interactions with humans.

“Hippos live in herds, they are quite aggressive. They are very territorial and are generally herbivores,” said Professor Echvery.

Although “cocaine hippos” are not native to Colombia, the local terrain is considered favorable for their breeding, as it has few water resources and a large amount of food.

So far, Colombia hasn’t been able to solve a problem that has — in the words of Gaviria to Blue Radio — “gone out of control.”

Whether the latest efforts will succeed where birth control efforts have failed remains to be seen.

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