Colombia to curb rise of wild hippos

BOGOTA, Nov 3: The Colombian government on Thursday announced it will sterilise the wild offsprings of hippopotamuses once owned by drug baron Pablo Escobar in view of their unchecked spread across the South American country.

“Surgical sterilisation is only one of the three measures envisaged in the Plan for the Management and Control of Hippopotamuses in Colombia,” said the Colombian Ministry of Environment. 

Environment Minister Susana Muhamad said the sterilisation would start next week. The government’s plan would see 20 hippos sterilised in 2023 and targets the sterilisation of 40 specimens a year from 2024 onwards. Sterilising each animal will cost an average of 40 million pesos (US$9,800).

The Colombian government said it was also making progress with the relocation of the animals to other countries such as Mexico and India, as well as ethical euthanasia.

“We must clarify that this is not the only strategy, nor would it be sufficient, we could not control the population with sterilisation alone,” Susana said.

Colombia has been fighting the unchecked spread of the wild hippopotamuses for years. In 2022, they were added to the country’s list of invasive species. 

The animals are the offspring of four African hippos brought by Escobar to his mansion complex Hacienda Napoles.

After Escobar was shot by security forces in 1993, the complex deteriorated, and the hippos moved to surrounding forests. There are now believed to be more than 160 such animals in the country.

They destroy fields, upset the balance of the ecosystem and put local residents in danger. If left unchecked, the population could grow to 1,000 individuals by 2035, the ministry said.