Pablo Escobar’s hippos are taking over the marshlands of Colombia — and need to face the same fate as their late owner before they become impossible to control, scientists have warned.
The so-called “cocaine hippos” were illegally imported to the country by the notorious drug lord, who was shot dead by authorities in 1993, according to records. But the rapidly-breeding beasts have now grown to become the largest invasive species on the planet — and could reach dangerous numbers in the next two decades.
“Nobody likes the idea of shooting a hippo, but we have to accept that no other strategy is going to work,” ecologist Nataly Castelblanco-Martínez told the outlet.
When Escobar was killed, authorities took control of his 7,000-acre estate, including a personal zoo. While most of the animals found homes at zoos elsewhere, four of the hippos escaped.
With no real predators, there are anywhere between 80 to 100 descendants of the Escobar’s former pets terrorizing the country’s lakes and rivers. Scientists have projected that the hippo population could surge to 1,500 by 2024.
The hippos pose a threat to the natural wildlife since their urine and feces are toxic, potentially sickening other species and even humans, the Telegraph reported.
David Echeverri Lopez, a government environmentalist, said they’re racing to castrate the critters before they take over. “These hippos have become part of the local identity. But time is running out,” he said.
But others fear that there’s no other option but to slaughter them. “Relocation might have been possible 30 years ago, when there were only four hippos,” Castelblanco-Martínez told the outlet. “Castration could also have been effective if officials had provided sufficient resources for the program early on, but a cull is now the only option.”
Credit: New York Post