BOGOTÁ – Colombia’s Environment Minister, Susana Muhamad, announced on Thursday that the country will take action to cull some of the 166 hippos descended from a small herd imported to the region in the 1980s by the late drug lord Pablo Escobar.
These animals have multiplied significantly along the Magdalena River, causing various problems for local communities.
Authorities have attempted multiple strategies to control the burgeoning hippo population, including sterilization and relocating individuals to foreign zoos.
However, the growth remains unchecked, with thousands of hippos residing in Colombia’s Antioquia department, far from their African homeland.
Pablo Escobar‘s private zoo was abandoned after his death in a 1993 police shootout.
The imported animals, including hippos, were left to roam freely in the savanna region of Antioquia, featuring rivers, marshes, and swamps teeming with hippo food.
The Colombian environment ministry declared these hippos an invasive species last year, paving the way for the cull.
Experts warn that uncontrolled hippo reproduction poses a threat to the local human population and wildlife.
Hippos are known to be one of the most dangerous animals globally, and fishing communities along the Magdalena River have faced attacks from them.
In some cases, hippos have even invaded schoolyards. Fortunately, no fatalities have occurred during these encounters.
The government’s approach includes the sterilization of 20 hippos this year. However, some of the animals will be euthanized.
The specific number of hippos to be culled was not provided.
University experts have warned that Colombia’s invasive hippo population could reach 1,000 by 2035 if no intervention takes place.
Animal activists, on the other hand, argue that sterilization causes suffering for the animals and poses great danger for the veterinarians involved in the process.