Yes, you read that right. And no, Pablo Escobar’s hippos are not facing a possible death sentence for drug trafficking and organized crime.
Back in the 1980s, notorious drug kingpin Pablo Escobar created a personal exotic zoo on his Colombian estate. This included purchasing four hippos from the San Diego Zoo for $2 million cash (Around $6 million in 2021). After Escobar’s death, many of the zoo animals were relocated. Hippos, known for their size, strength, and short temper, were too challenging to move and left to their own devices in the Colombian jungle. Only native to Africa, many assumed they wouldn’t survive there. But they ended up thriving, with their numbers growing exponentially. Today, the hippo cartel is estimated to have between 65 to 100 or more. It’s estimated if they’re left alone, there could be as many as 1,500 by 2035.
The issue is they’re an invasive species and as their number increases, so does their effect and damage on the local ecosystem. To keep the population down, 24 have been sterilized so far, which is a bit trickier and more expensive than neutering a cat. This has led to calls to cull the herd, which got the attention of various animal rights groups. This resulted in the hippos being declared legally “people” in a US court. While a nice sentiment, it holds only symbolic value as Colombia will decide what to do with them. But does this mean if the hippos are saved and relocated to the States, they may face prosecution for their role in Escobar’s Medellin cartel?
For the full story on Pablo Escobar, his exotic zoo, and hippos, click here.
For a story of a hippo that’s only crime is being super cute, check out Instagram star Fiona the hippo.