25 Years Later, A Drug Lord’s Pet Hippos Are Causing Trouble For Colombia

  • Cocaine and hippos are definitely a bad combination.

Want a hippopotamus for Christmas? Might wanna think again. A region of Colombia is figuring that out the hard way.

Pablo Escobar, the notorious cocaine drug lord, was shot dead in 1993. The government took control of his huge estate, including hundreds of exotic animals. But somehow, the hippos were missed.

Escobar housed 4 hippos he had smuggled in from Africa and they were his prized pets. 25 years later, allowed to roam and breed without any natural predators, plenty of food and space, and there are 50 hippos known to wildlife authorities, with higher numbers likely unknown.

Hippos are territorial and aggressive, known for attacking humans in Africa, causing more deaths than any other large animal. While no attacks have been reported in Colombia yet, it’s just a matter of time.

Killing the animals hasn’t been a wildly popular idea, and the alternatives aren’t the best solutions either. Relocation would be costly and dangerous to the animals, while sterilization would be equally costly and dangerous to the handlers.

Some hippos are kept on Escobar’s old estate, now turned into an amusement park and tourist attraction. The hippos are a big draw. But some have gotten out and have been recorded and reported to be wandering around villages, disturbing fishermen, and generally, get far too close to humans.

While the hippos are creating a slight, measurable difference in the water, it’s not enough to make conservationists fret. Hippos eat land vegetation, then defecate in the water, turning green water even greener. The real damage worry comes when they move across the bottom, shifting mud and changing the structure of wetlands.

While dangerous to encounter, the real impact of these animals into another environment (often called rewilding) is just now beginning to be seen. Good or bad, it seems the hippo is in Colombia to stay – for now. All because a drug lord found them cool.



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