According to the local governor, Colombia plans to fly dozens of its “cocaine hippos” – descendants of drug trafficker Pablo Escobar’s private menagerie – to new homes in India and Mexico in order to control their burgeoning population.
According to the Colombian government, there are now between 130 and 160 hippos, and they have spread far beyond Escobar’s former ranch of Hacienda Napoles, where they began as a population of just one male and three females.
The original hippos were part of Escobar’s collection of exotic animals, which he had amassed at his ranch about 250 kilometers (155 miles) from Medelln in the 1980s. Most of the other animals were relocated after his death in 1993, but not the hippos, because they were too difficult to transport.
They have since begun to reproduce rapidly, extending their reach along the Magdalena River basin, and authorities say they now pose an environmental challenge and are causing concern among nearby residents.
According to a study published in the journal Nature, their population could reach 1,500 within the next two decades.
Previously, authorities used castrations and “shots” of contraceptive darts to control their population. However, contraceptive motivations have had limited success.
The governor of Antioquia province, where Hacienda Napoles is located, announced a plan to relocate 70 hippos to natural sanctuaries in India and Mexico in a Tweet.