Colombia has announced plans to capture and send 70 hippopotamuses to sanctuaries in India and Mexico, according to a report in The Washington Post. These animals have descended from four African hippos illegally imported by drug lord Pablo Escobar in the 1980s, the outlet further said. The hippos were part of a collection of exotic animals like elephants, giraffes and antelopes at the private zoo on his estate in western Colombia. But after Escobar surrendered in 1991, the government seized his estate but allowed the animals to roam free.
In 30 years, the four hippos multiplied into 130 and settled into the Magdalena River in central Colombia. The government said they started polluting soil and water and wiping out native plants in the region. The local too felt threatened by the herbivores.
So, the governor of the region suggested a plan to tackle the menace – of sending them away.
“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, was quoted as saying by news agency AFP. He also tweeted about the same
The growth of the hippopotamus population “is a complex situation for the inhabitants” of the region, some of whom have been threatened by the animals, which can weigh two to three tons, he added.
There has been no comment from the Indian government on the issue.
The local environmental agency recorded two assaults on residents in 2021.
In 2022, after unsuccessful attempts at a sterilization programme, 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.
A study in journal Nature has warned that the hippos’ numbers could swell to 1,500 in 20 years. Authorities in Colombia used contraceptive darts and other methods to control their population, but these drives have had limited success.
According to CNN, 60 of these hippos will be sent to India and 10 to Mexico. In an interview to local media, Mr Gaviria said the goal was to take them to countries that have the capacity to receive and home them properly.
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