Move over Cocaine Bear, ‘Cocaine Hippos’ are taking over the spotlight in one South American country.
Colombia wants to move about 70 hippopotamuses that live near Pablo Escobar’s former ranch to two other countries as part of a plan to control their booming population.
The animals, descendants of four imported illegally from Africa by the late drug lord in the 1980s – have spread far beyond the Hacienda Napoles ranch, about 125 miles from Bogota along the Magdalena River.
Escobar’s ranch and so-called “cocaine hippos” have become a tourist attractions in the years since the kingpin was killed by police in December 1993. When his ranch was abandoned, the hippos survived and reproduced in local rivers and favorable climatic conditions.
Environmental authorities estimate there are some 130 hippos in the area in Antioquia province and their population could reach 400 in within the next decade.
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Feces in the water
Hippos are territorial, weigh up to three tons, and are one of the most aggressive animals on Earth, according to National Geographic. They can snap a canoe in half with their powerful jaws, and they kill about 500 people in Africa each year.
The herbivore mammals do not have a natural predator and scientists say they are a potential problem for biodiversity since their feces change the composition of the rivers. They also say and could impact the habitat of animals there like manatees.
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If all goes as planned the hippos would be transported to Mexico and India.
The idea to move them out has been forming for more than a year, said Lina Marcela de los Ríos Morales, director of animal protection and welfare at Antioquia’s environment ministry. The plan is to focus on the hippos living in rivers surrounding the ranch, not those inside the ranch because they are in a controlled environment there.
Ecuador, the Philippines and Botswana have also expressed interest in relocating the hippos to their countries, the Antioquia Governor’s Office reported.
How will they move the hippos?
Here’s how officials plan to move the animals.
- They will be lured with food into large, iron containers and transferred by truck to the international airport in the city of Rionegro, about 90 miles away.
- From there, they are flown to India and Mexico.
- 60 hippos go the Greens Zoological Rescue & Rehabilitation Kingdom in Gujarat, India, along the country’s western coast and Arabian Sea.
- 10 hippos go to zoos and sanctuaries in Mexico including the Ostok in Sinaloa, along the Gulf of California.
The relocations, De los Ríos Morales, said would help control the hippo population, and though the animals’ native habitat is Africa, it is more humane than the alternate proposal of exterminating them as an invasive species,
Contributing Astrid Suarez with the Associated Press. Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.