BOGOTA, COLOMBIA (AP) – Colombia is proposing transferring at least 70 hippopotamuses that live near Pablo Escobar’s former ranch, descendants of four imported from Africa by the late drug lord in the 1980s, to India and Mexico as part of a plan to control their population.
The hippos have spread far beyond the Hacienda Napoles ranch, located 200 kilometres from Bogota along the Magdalena River. Environmental authorities estimate there are about 130 hippos in the area in Antioquia province and their population could reach 400 in eight years.
Escobar’s Hacienda Napoles and the hippos have become a local tourist attraction in the years since the kingpin was killed by police in 1993.
When his ranch was abandoned, the hippos survived and reproduced in local rivers and favourable climatic conditions.
Scientists warn the hippos do not have a natural predator in Colombia and are a potential problem for biodiversity and could impact the habitat of manatees and capybaras. The plan to take them to India and Mexico has been forming for more than a year, said director of animal protection and welfare at Antioquia’s environment ministry Lina Marcela de los Ríos Morales.
The hippos would be lured into large, iron containers and transferred to the international airport in the city of Rionegro, 150 kilometres away.
From there, they would be flown to India and Mexico, where there are sanctuaries and zoos capable of caring for the animals.
“It is possible to do, we already have experience relocating hippos in zoos nationwide,” said a spokesman for Cornare, the local environmental authority that would be in charge of the relocations David Echeverri López.
The plan is to send 60 hippos to the Greens Zoological Rescue and Rehabilitation Kingdom in Gujarat, India, which De los Ríos Morales said would cover the cost of the containers and airlift.
Another 10 hippos would go to zoos and sanctuaries in Mexico such as the Ostok, located in Sinaloa.