Pablo Escobar: Colombia sterilises drug lord's hippos
The hippos on Pablo Escobar's former estate are considered the largest herd outside of Africa
A group of hippos - an unwanted inheritance from the death of notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar - is being sterilized.
Escobar, who was shot by police in 1993, illegally imported exotic animals, including a male and a female hippopotamus - the so-called "cocaine hippos".
Since then, a growing population has taken over the land near his former ranch, Hacienda Nápoles.
The Colombian government has so far sterilized 24 of over 80 animals.
They have been treated with a chemical that makes them sterile.
Colombian environmentalists say the hippos, believed to be the largest herd outside of Africa, are an invasive species and have displaced native fauna.
Many have campaigned for the animals to be killed or sterilized.
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When the authorities seized Hacienda Nápoles in 1993 - Escobar's luxury property about 250 km northwest of the capital Bogotá - most of the animals found there were distributed to zoos across the country.
But not the hippos.
"It was logistically difficult to move them, so the authorities just left them there, probably assuming the animals would die," Colombian biologist Nataly Castelblanco told the BBC earlier this year.
However, since there were no natural enemies in South America, the hippos multiplied.
Hippos in the Hacienda Nápoles, once the private zoo of drug lord Pablo Escobar, in Colombia, September 12, 2020
According to experts, they began to spread through one of the most important waterways in the country - the Magdalena River.
Scientists studying the environmental impact of the hippopotamus say the animals could affect the local ecosystem in a number of ways: from crowding out native species that are already critically endangered, like the manatee, to changing the chemical makeup of waterways, that could endanger the fisheries - although other studies suggest that they could also help the environment.
Escobar, one of the most notorious South American criminals of all time, was the founder of the infamous Medellín drug cartel in the 1980s, responsible for kidnappings, bombings and indiscriminate assassinations. He was once considered one of the richest men in the world.
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