The governor of a region of Colombia where a herd of some 150 hippos — descendants of animals once owned by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar — are breeding out of control said Monday he hopes for the greenlight to send half of them to sanctuaries in India and Mexico.
“We hope that the permits required by the national institutions can be approved in the first half of this year, so that we can make arrangements for the air shipment,” Anibal Gaviria, governor of Antioquia in the northwest, told AFP.
A small herd of hippos arrived in Colombia in the late 1980s, brought in by the fabulously wealthy cocaine lord Escobar. After his death in 1993, the animals were left to roam freely and populated the region of Magdalena Medio, a hot savanna criss-crossed by rivers, marshes and swamps where food for hippos is abundant.
Gaviria wants to transfer 70 of the herd — declared invasive by the government a year ago — to sanctuaries in India and Mexico.
The growth of the hippopotamus population “is a complex situation for the inhabitants” of Magdalena Medio, some of whom have been threatened by the animals, which can weigh two to three tons, he said.
The local environmental agency recorded two assaults on residents in 2021.
In 2022, after unsuccessful attempts at a sterilization program, the government declared the hippos an invasive species, opening the door to hunting. Experts and the environmental agency agreed it was a necessary solution, given the threat to local people and wildlife.
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