Colombian government declares hippos an invasive species

The Colombian government has planned to declare the hippos, descendants of a herd illegally imported by drug lord Pablo Escobar, an invasive alien species.

In a word

Hippos are not native to Colombia, these hippos were illegally imported by Pablo Escobar in the 1980s where he let the massive animals roam his huge estate.

However, after he was killed by authorities in 1993, his estate, called Hacienda Napoles, was abandoned – just like the hippos.

Soon they began to breed and spread through the area, landing in Puerto Triunfo about a decade ago. There are currently 130 hippos in the area, but projections show that number could rise to 400 within the next eight years.

Biodiversity problem

Scientists have now warned that hippos are a potential problem for biodiversity as their droppings change the composition of rivers, impacting the habitat of manatees and capybaras.

As a result, the Colombian government has announced that in a few weeks the government plans to sign a declaration, which means that it must come up with a plan to deal with the growing number of hippos.

Although no plan was cemented, it was reported via SkyNews that the government discuss castration, sterilization or even slaughter as possible solutions to the problem.

Pablo Escobar, 1983 in Colombia. (Photo by Eric VANDEVILLE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Colombian Environment Minister Carlos Eduardo Correa said: “They talk about castration, sterilization, the death of some hippos.

“What is important is the scientific and technical rigor with which decisions are made,” he added.

He added that local communities will be consulted on any plans regarding the hippo population.

Local support

Despite government efforts to eradicate the hippos, many locals have expressed their affection for the animals.

Alvaro Molina, a resident of Puerto Triunfo, said that although he was attacked by hippos while fishing, he did not want to see them expelled from the area.

The 57-year-old said he had learned to live with them and was worried about the potential damage that could be inflicted on them.

“The female attacked me once – the first pair that arrived – because she had just given birth”, 9News reported.

Conservationist Isabel Romero Jerez agreed, telling Sky News: “The hippos aren’t African anymore; they are Colombians.

“They make laws from a distance. Here we live with the hippos, and we never thought of killing them. The man-animal is the one who invades their territory, that’s why they feel threatened and attack” , she added.

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