Colombia began the $10,000-a-pop sterilization of the nation’s surprisingly large population of hippopotamuses, descendants of animals illegally brought to the country by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in the 1980s, this week. 

Two male hippos and one female underwent surgical sterilization, environmental authorities said. It is part of a larger government effort to control the population of 169 of the mammals that roam around unsupervised in some rivers.

The plan includes the sterilization of 40 hippos a year, transfer some of them to other countries and possibly euthanasia.

The hippos, which spread from Escobar´s estate into nearby rivers where they flourished, have no natural predators in Colombia and have been declared an invasive species that could upset the ecosystem.

A group of hippos was brought in the 1980s to Hacienda Nápoles, Escobar´s private 7,400 acre zoo that became a tourist attraction after his death in 1993. Most of the animals live freely in rivers and reproduce without control.

A handout image from the Colombian government shows the $10,000 sterilization of a male hippo in process

A handout image from the Colombian government shows the $10,000 sterilization of a male hippo in process

Hippos float in a lagoon in the Hacienda Napoles Park in November 2013. On Thursday, the Colombian government announced a plan aimed at controlling the population, which has grown to 169 and could swell to 1,000 by 2035 unless action is taken

Hippos float in a lagoon in the Hacienda Napoles Park in November 2013. On Thursday, the Colombian government announced a plan aimed at controlling the population, which has grown to 169 and could swell to 1,000 by 2035 unless action is taken

Pablo Escobar set up his own personal zoo at his Hacienda Napoles estate in the 1980s when he went out and purchased 1,900 exotic and wild animals from a zoo in Dallas. The collection included four hippopotamuses, which today have grown to 169

Pablo Escobar set up his own personal zoo at his Hacienda Napoles estate in the 1980s when he went out and purchased 1,900 exotic and wild animals from a zoo in Dallas. The collection included four hippopotamuses, which today have grown to 169

Sterilization takes time, because spotting and capturing the territorial, aggressive 3-ton animals is complicated, David Echeverry López, chief of the environment office in charge of the plan, said in a video distributed to the press.

Rain events around the area have complicated efforts to capture the animals. More grass means ‘they have an oversupply of food, so baiting them to capture them becomes even more complicated,’ Echeverry said.

The government estimates there are 169 hippos in Colombia, especially in the Magdalena River basin, and that if no measures are taken, there could be 1,000 by 2035.

When the plan was first announced, the environment ministry said the procedure is expensive – each sterilization costs about $9,800 – and entails risks for the hippopotamus, including allergic reactions to anesthesia or death, as well as risks to the animal health personnel.

Nataly Castblanco-Martínez, an ecologist at the University of Quintana Roo in Mexico and who was the lead author of a 2021 group study, told AP at the time that the hippo crisis was ‘one of the greatest challenges of invasive species in the world.’

They suggested that some of the animals needed to be killed.

Experts have said that sterilizing the hippopotamuses may not be enough to stop their growth. In March, the government announced a plan to transfer some of the animals to the Philippines, Mexico and India, where 60 would be sent.

‘We are working on the protocol for the export of the animals,’ Muhammad said. ‘We are not going to export a single animal if there is no authorization from the environmental authority of the other country.’

Colombian soldiers stand at the entrance of Hacienda Napoles, the estate built by Pablo Escobar which once featured his own personal zoo

Colombian soldiers stand at the entrance of Hacienda Napoles, the estate built by Pablo Escobar which once featured his own personal zoo

Pablo Escobar became interested in having his own zoo at his estate after he noticed the flock of exotic and wild animals that fellow Medellín Cartel leaders Fabio Ochoa, Juan Ochoa and Jorge Ochoa had at their own estate

Pablo Escobar became interested in having his own zoo at his estate after he noticed the flock of exotic and wild animals that fellow Medellín Cartel leaders Fabio Ochoa, Juan Ochoa and Jorge Ochoa had at their own estate

Escobar set up his own zoo at Hacienda Napoles using his fortune from the transnational drug trafficking organization.

Puerto Triunfo local officials had shut down his plans for a city zoo because there was already one in Medellín, according to the book ‘Pablo Escobar, my father,’ penned by his only son Juan Pablo Escobar.

The feared drug kingpin was also interested in creating his own zoo after noticing that fellow associates and cartel leaders Fabio Ochoa, Juan Ochoa and Jorge Ochoa had a collection of exotic animals at their own estates.

So, the Medellín Cartel boss went out and purchased a collection of 1,900 exotic and wild animals from a zoo in Dallas for $2 million.

The capo became bothered at the fact that there was only one hippo – a male – and told a henchman he needed more.

‘You have to buy a hippopotamus because Noah’s Ark is wobbling,’ Pablo Escobar said. ‘Call Miami and ask them to send me a female on a plane now

The zoo’s hippo collection grew to four, including three females,

Some of the animals were transferred to zoos following Escobar’s death in 1993, while others fled and multiplied.

Source: | This article originally belongs to Daily Mail

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