Colombia has embarked on a campaign to rid the country of late drug lord Pablo Escobar’s wildest legacy.
Not cocaine—but hippos.
Authorities have sterilized two dozen of the beasts descended from the four that Escobar imported from the U.S. to his private exotic zoo back in the 1980s.
After the Medellin cartel leader was killed in 1993, most of his animals were moved to other zoos, but the 2-ton hippos were too big and were left at his estate, Hacienda Nápoles.
Some are still there, but others roam wild around the rivers, threatening local fauna, destroying river banks, turning water toxic with their poop, and even attacking humans.
Experts have long been concerned that without intervention the number of hippos—estimated to be about 80—could balloon into the thousands by 2050.
David Echeverri, a biologist with the government-backed Cornare Institute, is leading an operation to capture and kill some of the wild hippos. He told France 24 that while his group has managed to sterilize 10 of them, a permanent solution needs to be found.
“Everything to do with hippos is complex, costly, demoralizing, and of course, very dangerous,” Echeverri said. “We cannot kill them all nor can we capture them all.”
Echeverri urged zoos and institutions that might want a hippo to reach out.
“For the hippos, you don’t have to pay anything,” he said. “You just have to take care of the logistics to transport them—and get us rid of them,” he said.