Pablo Escobar’s escaped hippos have become a threat to a town in Colombia and are damaging ecosystems with their powerful poos.
Hippopotamuses can be territorial and aggressive, so local residents have every reason to be worried.
80 hippos belonging to Pablo Escobar have hip-hopped their way into Colombia’s major river and have begun terrorizing nearby towns.
In 1978, Escobar had amassed such a fortune from the drug trade that he set about purchasing a lavish 2225-hectare estate. The complex was named Hacienda Napoles and included a bullfighting arena, soccer field and a menagerie complete with four prized hippos. After his death in 1993, the estate was left to decay, and the hippopotamuses deemed too dangerous to relocate.
Flash forward a few decades and the hippos have strayed 150 kilometres away from the estate and towards the nearby town of Doradol. The foursome had spread their chunky legs to procreate and have since formed a rather large family of up to 80 members.
There have been no attacks yet, but residents of Doradol are wary. One man reports getting the fright of his life bumping into a rogue hippo after turning a corner at night.
As well as freaking out the neighbourhood, the hippos are contaminating Colombia’s major river, Rio Magdalena, with excessive defecation. Their enormous poos cause a significant drop in oxygen levels, endangering fish species and muddying the water.
“They only eat on land,” Jonathan Shurin, a biologist at the University of California, San Diego, told the Los Angeles Times. “Then they come into the water and crap all day.” What a life to live.
For decades, the Colombian government has been grappling with a humane solution to curtail the population growth of hippopotamuses. Chemical sterilisation techniques that have been successful on pigs will be attempted later in the year.
Here are some cool science facts about hippos, in case you ever meet one:
- Their poo sinks
- The name Hippopotamus comes from the Ancient Greek ‘river horse’
- An adult hippo needs to resurface every 3-5 minutes to breathe, and can do so while sleeping without waking
- The semi-aquatic can outrun most humans, with top speeds of up to 30km/h
- Hippos mark their territory by scattering their droppings across river beds, making a slapping sound by swishing their tails from side to side
- They are herbivores, and can consume up to 35kg of grass in one go
- Hippos are too heavy to swim. Instead, they stomp along the river bottom
Researchers from the Ecological Society of America have warned that hippo populations could explode in the next few decades if not properly managed, endangering larger and wilder rivers. Shit. Literally.