25 years since drug kingpin Pablo Escobar was killed, his pet hippo cartel continues to thrive in Columbia. In 1981, Escobar bought four hippos from the San Diego Zoo and flew them on a military Hercules aircraft to his private zoo on his massive estate called Hacienda Napoles. He reportedly paid $2 million USD in cash, which equals to around $7 million in 2023. Hippos are only native to Africa where they have virtually no predators.This made the lush countryside of Colombia a perfect home away from home. Originally there was one male and three females and have since grown their gang to between 40 and 60 over the last 36 years.
There was a variety of exotic animals in Pablo’s zoo when he died, many animals were rescued, with some dying or being stolen. The hippos were a different story, aggressive and weighing up to 4,000 pounds they aren’t easy to rescue or hunt. Some of the hippos still live on Pablo’s former estate, which has been turned into a cheap amusement park. But like true narcos, these hippos do as they please and have been expanding their territory ever since.
While the hippos are enjoyed by visitors and considered village pets by many locals, their large foreign presence isn’t without its problems. Known for their aggression, they can damage the environment and hurt local wildlife. Authorities have made attempts to cull the population with little success, so they have been aiming to contain them to certain areas. Also in death Pablo still cares for his hippos, with the local environmental agency provided with a $120,000 annual budget from his seized cash. Time will tell if this hippo cartel will run longer than the Medellin Cartel. In November 2023, the hippos faced euthanasia due to their huge population growth.