Human Interest

Two hippopotamuses stroll through Colombian town

Bogota, Mar 2 (EFE).- Customers at a restaurant in the Colombian town of Puerto Triunfo were surprised and stunned when two hippopotamuses appeared and strolled through local streets without causing any damage or attacking any of the local residents.

Local media outlets posted videos on their Web pages showing the two huge mammals walking calmly through an urban area in the town’s Doradal sector near a restaurant.

The Hacienda Napoles, a local theme park, told RCN Radio that the two animals were part of a group of between 20 and 50 hippos who live near the lake on the property and are being cared for by the Colombian government and the Autonomous Regional Corporation of the Negro and Nare River Basins (Cornare), and thus are not among the three members of the species that are the responsibility of the theme park itself.

The coordinator of Cornare’s Forests and Biodiversity department, David Echeverri Lopez, said that the pair were young animals who, in their placid exploration of the local area, passed through an area where local restaurant diners were able to videotape them with their cellphones.

“It’s a situation that has happened before, but it’s been a while. Let’s call it a situation that reflects the problem represented by the presence of hippopotamuses in this wild area,” Lopez said.

In early February, Colombian authorities announced that they will include the hippos, which were imported into the country in 1981 by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, on the country’s list of invasive species as per the findings of technical and scientific studies.

The Environment Ministry, meanwhile, said that this is the first step toward undertaking concrete action regarding the species and the move was made by the National Technical Committee for Introduced and/or Transplanted Invasive Species.

A study of hippos in Colombia conducted by the Alexander von Humboldt Institute and the National Sciences Institute of the National University showed the environmental risks created by the invasion of this species into strategic ecosystems and concluded that the beasts will have an impact on certain native species.

Hippos were introduced into the South American country more than 40 years ago and have migrated from northwestern Colombia’s Magdalena Medio area to the Momposina Basin, according to the study, and they are a threat to native species like manatees and to the country’s strategic ecosystems.

Escobar imported four hippos from a US zoo in 1981 to be part of a collection of exotic animals at his Hacienda Napoles, and since then they have been reproducing in an uncontrolled manner.

EFE ocm/jga/rrt/bp

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