Cocaine Hippo's

 In 1993, Colombian Drug Lord Pablo Escobar was shot dead with a gun shot wound to the head and his luxurious estate was taken by the Colombian government.  A fitting death for a Drug Lord who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds, maybe thousands of people either by murder or by the drugs he sold.  If you don't know anything about Escobar, he was the founder of the Medellin Cartel who became the wealthiest criminal in history.  His drug operation had an estimated worth of $30 billion U.S. dollars at the time of his death.  His drug cartel was responsible for most of the cocaine trade in the United States from the early 1980's until the early 1990's.  He established the first cocaine drug routes into America when at it's height, transported shipments of 70 to 80 tons of cocaine a month from Columbia into the U.S..  Yes, you read that right 70 to 80 tons A MONTH!  His legacy does remain somewhat controversial however, because many people in Columbia saw him as a Robin Hood-like figure since he provided many amenities to the poor.  Of course, as a man of unlimited wealth and power, Escobar was able to have just about anything he wanted and this is where the Hippo's come in.

During his time at his estate, Haceienda Napoles, Escobar collected many things including two hippopotamuses that he kept in a private menagerie.  He was fascinated by these big lumbering creatures and sometimes treated them better than humans.  After his death, the Colombian government decided that these two Hippo's were too difficult to catch and move, so they left them to roam free on the estate.  By 2007, these two hippo's multiplied to 16 and had taken to roaming the area by the Magdelena River for food.  As of early 2014, the hippo population grew to 40, by 2018 to 60 and by December 2020 there were an estimated 90 to 120 hippo's that cover an 870 square mile area. 

So,why is this a problem?  Everyone loves hippo's.  Hell, there was a song called, "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas".  However, hippo's are not native to South America and are considered an evasive species.  If they continue to propagate and expand, they could change the entire ecosystem of the area since they eat tons of plants and could displace species like the West Indian Manatee Neotropical Otter, Specaled Caiman and various species of turtles including the endangered Dahl's Toad-Headed Turtle not to mention various species of fish.  There is also the threat of attack on humans since hippo's can be very aggressive when protecting their offspring and "home turf".  In 2009, two adults and one calf left their herd, attacked humans and killed cattle.  Let me guess, the attack must have been unprovoked.....NOT!  One of the adults name Pepe was killed by hunters under the authorization of the local authorities. When a photo of the dead hippo became public, it caused considerable controversy among animal rights groups both within the country and abroad, and further plans of culling ceased.  Human's always amaze me.  When in doubt, start killing off the animals that cause a problem.

What is The Bottom Line here?  Other than culling the heard or "bloat", (a group of hippo's is called a bloat), some alternative methods to stop the spread of hippo's have been considered, but they are unproven, or difficult and expensive. A wild male hippo was caught, castrated and released again, but it cost about $50,000 U.S. dollars.  As of 2020, there were no plans by the local government on managing the population, but further studies on their effect on the habitat have been initiated by scientists.  These scientists along with conservationists have recommended that a management plan needs to be implemented quickly before things get out of control.  I happen to like hippo's, so I hope they come up with something other than killing them.  Make no mistake, hippo's are a very aggressive animal, however there is some alluring quality to them.