Human Interest

Colombia weighs hunting to control “cocaine hippo” population

Bogota, Apr 14 (EFE).- The Colombian government said Friday that it is considering a proposal to enlist hunters in the task of controlling the population of “cocaine hippos,” descendants of the four hippopotamuses late drug lord Pablo Escobar illegally imported in 1984 for the zoo he kept at his rural estate.

The suggestion was made in a study by Humboldt University and the National University.

“This action is contemplated if the social, economic, and ecological circumstances warrant it. It does not contemplate the massive and indiscriminate hunting of hippopotamus and it adheres to standards of ethics and animal welfare,” the environment ministry said in a joint statement with the institute and the university.

News of the proposal comes three days after one of the cocaine hippos wandered onto a highway and caused an accident that left two people injured and the animal dead.

The collision took place on the road linking Bogota with Medellin, Colombia’s second city and the capital of Antioquia province, home to Escobar’s Hacienda Napoles, a spread of nearly 3,000 hectares (6,000 acres).

In the years since Escobar’s death in a 1993 shootout with police, the hippos have multiplied in the absence of any natural predators.

Now numbering more than 150, the hippos have become a threat to flora, fauna, and residents in the vicinity of the hacienda and last year, the environment ministry included the hippopotamus on the list of invasive species.

Adult hippos weigh from 1,300-1,500 kg (2,900-3,300 lbs) on average and can cover short distances at speeds of up to 30 km/h (19 mph).

The Humboldt/National University study puts forward a number of different options for addressing the problem of the cocaine hippos, including placing them in zoos or repatriating the animals to their native Africa.

The authors also mention efforts to fragment the hippo population into smaller groups and confine those contingents to isolated areas where they can thrive without posing any danger to other species.

EFE jga/dr

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