Scientists published a study in the journal Biological Conservation earlier this month warning that the hippopotamuses imported by the cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar decades ago are taking over Colombia’s marshlands, and that situation will get far worse if officials don’t get rid of the creatures.
The Colombian National Police killed Pablo Escobar in 1993. When they did so, they seized his 7,000-acre ranch, including his personal zoo. But while they sent most of Escobar’s animals to live in other zoos and wildlife preserves, they left his four fully grown cocaine hippos alone, even though they’re not native to the region. Those four reproduced, and now there’s roughly 80 hippos roaming around the country, having become something of a national mascot.
The hippos, which the report says are “the largest invasive animal in the world,” are wreaking havoc on the country’s ecosystems. Last year, research showed that the animals’ crap was changing local waterways’ chemistry and oxygen levels, fertilizing harmful cyanobacteria, which can lead to blue-green algae blooms that make people and animals sick. The hippos have also been a direct safety threat to Colombians, chasing them around and even seriously injuring one man in May 2020.