By Oisin Sweeney • 10 February 2021 • 8:32
A HERD of wild hippos that are descendants of those illegally imported in drug lord Pablo Escobar’s private zoo must be culled to protect wildlife in Colombia say experts.
During the height of his international cocaine empire in the 1980s, Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar created a decadent private zoo featuring an array of exotic animals – including 35 hippos.
Following his death at the hands of police in 1983, Escobar’s herd of hippos spread into the surrounding countryside where their numbers have grown to between 65 and 80. Despite being beloved by locals, the animals must be culled according to experts before their numbers reach 1500 in 2035 – which would pose a major threat to local wildlife.
Efforts to sterilise the large mammals have been hampered by the procedure’s complexity and expense – the animals must be sedated before experts spend hours searching for reproductive organs. The herd could pose a major threat to human life, as hippos are known to have volatile temperaments, but among the locals, the vast animals are a beloved local feature. There was an outcry a few years ago when one was shot dead by a hunter.
Pablo Escobar rose from poverty in the Colombian city of Medellin to create one of the largest cocaine smuggling operations the world has ever seen. Despite the violence and terror wrought by his gang, he is considered something of a folk hero in some parts of his home country and is remembered worldwide for his opulent wealth.
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Oisin is an Irish writer based in Seville, the sunny capital of Andalucia. After starting his working life as a bookseller, he moved into journalism and cut his teeth as a reporter at one of Ireland's biggest news websites. Since joining Euro Weekly News in November, he has enjoyed covering the latest stories from Seville, Spain and further afield - with special interests in crime, cybersecurity, and European politics. Anyone who can pronounce his name first try gets a free cerveza...
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