Pablo Escobar’s four illegally imported hippos have successfully reproduced since the 1980s, causing a surge in population and posing a threat to the local environment and water sources, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
The number of hippos near Medellín, Columbia, has doubled over the past eight years to between 65 and 80, and is expected to reach 1,500 by 2035 without intervention, the AP reported. Government officials have sterilized some of the male hippos, though it hasn’t stopped the population growth.
“Everyone asks, ‘Why is this happening?’ Well, imagine a town of 50 people and you perform a vasectomy on one man and in two years on another man, obviously, that is not going to control the reproduction of the entire population,” University of Quintana Roo Ecologist Nataly Castelblanco-Martínez said, the AP reported.
The Colombian government seeks to euthanize the hippos that Pablo Escobar removed from their habitat for his infamous animal collection 😠 pic.twitter.com/UsnxkHAAjm
— Cultura Colectiva+ (@ccplus) February 4, 2021
The hippos were left at Escobar’s estate following his death because of violence in the area the expense of relocating multiple 3-ton animals, according to the AP.
Hunting the hippos was banned federally after soldiers were photographed showing off the dead hippo, according to the AP. Officials moved to sterilize the animals as a form of population control, though each procedure costs about $8,500.
“The community keeps an eye on us to make sure that we are actually sterilizing (the hippo) and not doing anything else,” veterinarian Gina Serna-Trujillo said, the AP reported. “They love them.”
The government is considering a chemical form of sterilization that had been effective with pigs for the hippos, according to the AP.
The animals serve as a tourist attraction for the rural community and provide a source of revenue, the AP reported. Hippos are responsible for killing more people annually in Africa than any other wildlife animal.
A hippo chased and seriously injured a Colombian farmer in 2020, according to the AP. Hunters killed one hippo after three escaped from the compound around 10 years ago and started causing issues, leading to criticism from the community that has embraced the animals.
“We have other invasive species in Colombia that have undergone normal protocols, and no one ever makes a fuss because they are fishing lionfish,” Castelblanco said, the AP reported. “You can’t even talk about [culling hippos] because the rejection is staggering. … I am being called a murderer.”
A study found that the animals are affecting the water quality in areas where they spend significant amounts of time, the AP reported.
“About 10 years ago, we realized that we have a giant population of hippopotamuses. We began to learn how the population was constituted, to see if there was an immediate solution,” a researcher for the regional environmental agency David Echeverri-Lopez said, the AP reported. “We really began to realize the dimensions of the problem.”
Hippos don’t have a natural predator in Columbia so the population will continue to increase without outside intervention, the AP reported.