Pablo Escobar was a notorious Colombian drug lord who became one of the wealthiest and most powerful criminals in history: he was also an animal lover.
During his heyday in the 1980s, he famously owned a large collection of exotic animals, including elephants, giraffes, and hippopotami. If Escobar was a problem for the authorities when he was alive then so are his remaining hippos.
After he died in 1993, his collection of 70 African hippos were left to roam free in the Antioquia region of Colombia, causing an ecological problem for the country. Now, the Colombian government plans to relocate the hippos to overseas sanctuaries at a cost of US$3.5m, reported Aljazeera.
Escobar’s Hacienda Napoles, where the hippos lived, has become a tourist attraction since his death. However, the hippos’ presence has led to concerns over their impact on the environment. The hippos are a territorial species, weighing up to three tonnes, and do not have natural predators in Colombia. Their faeces change the composition of rivers, which could affect the habitat of manatees and capybaras.
To address the issue, last year the Colombian government declared the hippos a toxic invasive species and attempted a sterilisation programme to control their population, but it failed. The plan now is to relocate 60 of the hippos to the Greens Zoological Rescue & Rehabilitation Kingdom in Gujarat, India, and another 10 to zoos and sanctuaries in Mexico.
Ernesto Zazueta, the owner of the Ostok Sanctuary in Sinaloa, Mexico, one of the destinations for the hippos, said…
“The whole operation should cost around US$3.5m.”
The hippos will be lured into pens before being placed in special crates for transportation.
The relocation is viewed as a necessary measure to save the hippos’ lives and protect Colombia’s biodiversity. Otherwise, the environment ministry would have had to consider culling the animals. Other countries, such as Ecuador, the Philippines, and Botswana, have expressed their willingness to take the hippos.
The fate of his hippos is now in the hands of animal welfare activists and government officials who hope to ensure their safety and protect the environment.
Escobar engaged in a shootout with police and soldiers on a rooftop, which led to his death on December 2, 1993, in Medellin. He was 44 years old at the time, having celebrated his 44th birthday just one day prior. Interestingly, five months before his death, he had been listed in Forbes magazine’s ranking of the wealthiest individuals in the world for the seventh time.
The airfare for moving Pablo Escobar’s famed hippos from Colombia has a hefty price tag, according to a sanctuary owner set to receive several of the animals 👇
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) March 30, 2023
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