Story at a glance:

  • Hippopotamuses are native to Africa; one species, the common hippo, is found in East Africa, and the other, smaller species, the pygmy hippo, is native to West Africa.
    • Kingpin Pablo Escobar brought hippos to Colombia in the 1980s.
    • There could be up to 7,000 hippos in Colombia by 2060.

An invasive and wild hippopotamus population in Colombia — grown from four hippos brought to the country by Pablo Escobar in the 1980s — is threatening the ecological balance in the region. 

Native to East and West Africa, hippopotamuses were brought to Colombia by cocaine king Pablo Escobar in the 1980s and are now thriving in the “paradise on earth” habitats in the country, CNN reported.

The kingpin had a private zoo, including hippos, zebras and giraffes, until he died in a shootout in 1993 with the Colombia National Police. 

The four hippopotamuses that Escobar acquired for his private zoo at Hacienda Napoles resided in his ranch on the banks of the Magdalena river in central Colombia.


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While the war on drugs in Columbia continues between law enforcers and drug producers, the awareness of the environment and how an invasive species can change an ecosystem is also important.

Hippos are massive, noisy animals, and their presence in Colombia is changing water resources, boosting algae and thus decreasing oxygen for marine life in surrounding lakes and ponds. They are also dangerous to humans, killing more than 500 people in Africa a year.

"This is not about the past: The real problems will be in the future. It's about an ecological risk, because these are animals of huge size with the capacity of changing the ecosystem," Nataly Castelblanco, a scientist at Quintana Roo University, said.

Compared to the African savannah, there are no predatory animals in Colombia that could challenge the hippo, nor does the country permit hunting them. Left alone, the hippo population in Columbia could go up to 7,000 hippos by 2060, CNN reports.

As of now, there are no solutions to the problem and people seem to have an affinity towards the hippos in Colombia, according to CNN. 


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Published on Apr 19, 2021