Colombia Has A Wild Hippo Problem Started By The Ones Kept As Pablo Escobar’s Pets

Published November 29, 2017
Updated December 10, 2018
Published November 29, 2017
Updated December 10, 2018

In the 1980s, there were four hippos in Pablo Escobar's Colombian zoo. Now, there are as many as 40 across the country.

Hippo Teeth

Wikimedia CommonsTwo hippopotamuses.

Running at speeds of almost 20 miles per hour on land, hippopotamuses have been known to take down anything in their path, including lions. These living tanks could be the deadliest large land mammal, killing an estimated 500 people per year in Africa.

Thankfully, barring a visit to the zoo, most people in America never need to worry about seeing and potentially being murdered by hippos. However, the same can not be said for Colombians.

You see, like many of Colombia’s problems, it all goes back to Pablo Escobar. The drug kingpin was making nearly $70 million a day, and apparently, he thought it would be pretty cool to own and build his own private zoo on an estate known as Hacienda NĂ¡poles.

The zoo featured exotic wildlife such as elephants, giraffes, and hippopotamuses. Although, after Escobar was shot to death on a rooftop, the government took control of his animals.

Pablo Escobar Mug Shot

Wikimedia CommonsA mugshot of Pablo Escobar.

While some animals were transferred to facilities around the world, the hippos were left behind where they eventually escaped and became feral.

Since none of the animals in Colombia were foolish enough to attack the hippos, the large mammals were left to themselves. The lack of predators meant that their population grew at an alarming rate. In the 1980s, there were four hippos. Now there are as many as 40, living in various lakes and neighboring rivers.

Scientists are very concerned about the possible effects they could have on the Colombian ecosystem. For example, their waste adds nutrients to lakes, leading to algae blooms which kill fish.

Meanwhile, other animals such as otters and manatees could potentially be displaced. Hippos are very territorial creatures, and smaller mammals do not stand a chance against these violent behemoths.

Hippos In Colombia

YouTubeHippos roaming in Colombian lakes.

The safety and livelihood of locals are also at stake. While no one has been slain by a hippo yet, the lumbering animals have already dealt damage to farms in the area. Occasionally one will make its way to the center of town and send the people into a panic.

The government has tried various solutions to the hippo problem. They tried initiating a hunting program, but nobody wanted to kill the hippos, and eating them could potentially give people disease such as leptospirosis.

The government have also attempted to castrate the mammals, but hippos are sensitive to chemicals. That means they would have to be castrated manually, which is obviously not the easiest task. To further complicate matters, as a defense mechanism, their testicles are hidden inside their bodies.

Of all the consequences left behind by Pablo Escobar, this is no doubt the strangest.

Next, learn about the most ridiculous Pablo Escobar facts. Then, check out these photos from Colombia’s Barranquilla Carnival.

Gabby Duran
Gabby is a student and a writer from the Philippines.