Colombia to fly 70 of Pablo Escobar's 'cocaine hippos' to zoos across the world
His four hippopotami—three males and four males—escaped their precinct and found a new home in Colombia’s Magdalena River, where they began to breed
March 17, 2023 8:46am
Updated: March 17, 2023 8:46am
Colombian authorities announced that they would deport at least 70 of drug cartel leader Pablo Escobar’s “cocaine hippos” to zoos around the world.
Escobar was known to keep exotic animals at his private zoo. After the renowned drug leader died in 1993, many of the animals found new homes in the zoo. Except for his hippopotami and a few other animals.
His four hippopotami—three males and four males—escaped their precinct and found a new home in Colombia’s Magdalena River, where they began to breed. Years later, those four hippos turned into 140.
Scientists have warned that the hippos have been procreating at an alarming rate and could pose a problem in the future, both to humans and the environment. According to their estimates, the hippos could reach a population of 1,500 by 2030.
Authorities decided to relocate at least 70 of the hippos to new zoos. Before they can be transported to their new homes, however, authorities need to trap and anesthetize the animals.
"We hope to relocate some number of hippos this year," said David Echeverri Lopez, head of Biodiversity Management, Protected Areas, and Ecosystem Services at Cornare, the government agency handling the hippo relocation.
"At the moment we only have interested zoos in Mexico and India," he said, adding that they are looking for other zoos or sanctuaries that will take the large animals. The park in India is allegedly accepting 60 of the animals, while a sanctuary in Mexico is taking in 10 of them.
To trap the animals, Cornare plans to use its established capture protocol, which involves luring the hippos into a coral with food and anesthetizing them to put them in a crate and fly them to their new location.
"Everything with hippos is risky, as well as complex, costly, and time-consuming," López said.