Colombia is moving 70 or more hippopotamuses belonging to former drug lord Pablo Escobar to India and Mexico. Before his death in 1993, Escobar smuggled four hippos from Africa and brought them to his Hacienda Napoles ranch, where they have continued to multiply since the ranch was abandoned following the kingpin’s death.

Colombia is Moving 70 Hippos Belonging to Pablo Escobar to India and Mexico

Often referred to as “cocaine hippos” since Escobar was famous for his illegal involvement in the drug business, the animals are now numbered 130 and are estimated to reach a population of 400 in the next eight years. With many of them weighing about 3 tons, the hippos have spread beyond Escobar’s Hacienda Napoles ranch to the Antioquia province, where they could threaten humans.

The authorities proposed to sterilize the animals to prevent them from multiplying some years ago, but the plan failed because the hippos keep on multiplying in the face of abundant water and food and a lack of natural predators. In 2021, the government proposed destroying the animals, but lawsuits from animal rights groups stopped the authorities from putting the animals to death.

In Africa, more people die annually from hippo attacks than from any other animal attacks. An animal scientist, David Echeverri, said the cocaine hippos may populate to such an extent that they begin to encroach on human living areas and view humans as threats – then the attacks begin. Many times, the hippos leave the rivers and walk through towns, causing traffic holdups as people allow them to pass on on their way.

While there haven’t been significant hippo attacks in Colombia, marine biologists warn that the animals are still dangerous to the environment because their feces could cause biodiversity problems in waters that host manatees and capybaras. In 2022, the government declared the hippos a toxic invasive species that should be controlled at all costs.

As it stands, the authorities are perfecting plans to move hippos living in the rivers around the Hacienda Napoles ranch out of the country, and not those living inside the ranch since these are in a controlled environment and do not threaten the local ecosystem. The plan is to dispatch 60 hippos to India and another 10 to Mexico.

According to plans, the animals will be lured with food into massive iron containers and then transported by truck to the international airport, from where they will be airlifted to India and Mexico. The government said both countries have natural facilities – sanctuaries and zoos – to care for the animals. Countries such as Ecuador, the Philippines, and Botswana have also indicated an interest in having animals.

The Greens Zoological Rescue and Rehabilitation Kingdom in India agreed to cover the costs for the iron containers and air transportation to India, and the Ostok sanctuaries in Mexico also agreed to help with the logistics of having the hippos brought to them. In the next few years, the Colombian government may further decide to move more hippos out of the country to further control their population and damage to the environment.