Pablo Escobar’s feral hippos face cull in Colombia

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A warning in Spanish about Hippos in Colombia
By Graeme Baker
BBC News

Colombia is to cull some of the 166 hippos descended from a herd owned by drug lord Pablo Escobar in the 1980s.

Environment Minister Susana Muhamad said that 20 would be sterilised, others would be transferred abroad – and “some” would be euthanised.

Experts have for years tried to control the hippo numbers.

Escobar imported the animals for his Hacienda NĂ¡poles private zoo. They were left to roam freely after he was killed in a shootout with police in 1993.

Authorities have tried various approaches to curb the population explosion in Colombia’s main river, the Magdalena, including sterilisation and transferring individuals to zoos abroad.

Efforts failed to contain the herd’s growth, however, with a lack of predators and the fertile and swampy Antioquia region providing perfect conditions for the native African animal to thrive.

Their fate was sealed when hippos were declared an invasive species last year, opening the door to a cull.

“We are working on the protocol for the export of the animals,” Ms Muhamad was quoted as saying by local media.

“We are not going to export a single animal if there is no authorization from the environmental authority of the other country.”

She said the ministry was creating a protocol for euthanasia as a last resort.

Colombian experts have long warned that the hippos’ uncontrolled reproduction poses a threat to humans and native wildlife.

Hippos are the second largest land animal after the elephant and adult males can weigh up to three tonnes.

They are among the most dangerous animals in the world: They kill an estimated 500 people a year.

Fishing communities along the Magdalena River have come under attack and some hippos invaded a school yard, although no one has been killed.

Estimates suggest that the population could reach 1,000 by 2035 if nothing is done, but animal activists say sterilization entails suffering for the animals – and great danger for the vets doing it.

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