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Colombia declares Pablo Escobar’s hippos “invasive species”

Manatees and several species of fish are threatened by the presence of animals imported by the drug trafficker

Hippos, a species that was introduced to Colombia more than 40 years ago by drug trafficker Pablo Escobar, will be declared an invasive species by decision of the National Technical Committee for Introduced and/or Transplanted Invasive Species.

The decision is based on the results of the study carried out by the Alexander von Humboldt Institute and the Institute of Natural Sciences of the National University, which conclude that hippos represent a threat to native species such as the manatee, as well as to the country’s strategic ecosystems.

“We have been working with scientific and rigorous information on the roadmap for decision-making regarding control and management measures for this species in Colombia. For this reason, the Ministry of the Environment will adopt the recommendation to declare the hippopotamus as an invasive species by part of the National Committee for Introduced and/or Transplanted Invasive Species,” said the Colombian Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Carlos Eduardo Correa, quoted by the RTVC network.

Correa explained that with this recommendation of the Committee, progress is being made with concrete and timely actions to manage the presence of this species in accordance with what was agreed at the meeting of experts and academics held this week to publicize the results of the study of hippos in the country.

Drug trafficker Pablo Escobar imported three male and one female hippos in 1981, which, almost three decades later, have become some 70 specimens. The animals were released in Antioquia after the death of the drug trafficker in 1993 and, despite the efforts of environmentalists, the situation continues to worsen over time.

Among the species threatened by Escobar’s hippos is the manatee, at risk of extinction, as well as some fish in the area that do not survive the reduction in oxygen levels derived from hippopotamus feces. There have also been cases of attacks on people.

Researchers have warned that the hippo population will continue to grow in the coming years, probably exponentially.

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