Pablo Escobar may be long gone, but his hippos live on.
The Colombian drug-lord was shot in 1993, leaving the government to take control of his northwestern Colombian estate. That estate included four of Escobar’s favourite hippopotamuses.
They were left to fend for themselves in a pond and the Colombian government probably thought that would be the last they heard of the cocaine hippos.
But, life finds a way.
The hippos started out small, but their numbers reach into the 50s now. They’ve escaped Escobar’s ranch, and invaded the Magdalena, Colombia’s main river, changing the ecosystem as they go.
By spreading out, eating the surrounding vegetation and redepositing it back into the water, they’ve been unintentionally conducting their own rewilding experiment.
According to Wikipedia, rewilding is a conservation effort aimed at “restoring or protecting natural processes and core wilderness areas, providing connectivity between such areas, and protecting or reintroducing apex predators and keystone species.”
It’s been 25 years since the hippos were abandoned on Escobar’s ranch and the rewilding experiment began. Initially, researchers were concerned that the hippos would prove to be an invasive species and begin displacing other animals. But, a hippo research project funded by the National Geographic Society shows that, so far, the effects of the hippos are minimal.