Uncontrollable hippos permanently damage the environment | News


Colombia may have finally found a solution to one of the lesser-known legacies of a notorious drug dealer Pablo Escobar: invasive hippos.

A handful of hippos brought to Colombia in the 1980s for Escobar’s private zoo have reached a population of 80, prompting biologists to voice concern about their environmental impact and the threat to human security. In January, a study published in Biological Conservation called for the herd to grow – now wild in the Antioquia department – to be shot.

The regional government has instead tried to sterilize the huge beasts, but traditional surgical sterilization is too dangerous and demanding to be extended. Only 11 hippos have so far been sterilized this way, according to local authorities.

On Friday, however, the regional environmental agency Cornare announced that its efforts to control the hippo population had treated 24 other hippos with a new method: darts loaded with the contraceptive drug GonaCon.

Compared to surgery, GonaCon is “a much cheaper option“, according to a statement from Cornare.” However, this remains complex as experts suggest giving three doses, based on studies and comparisons done in other large animals such as horses. The same drug has been tested on other populations of wildlife, including wild horses in the United States, kangaroos in Australia and wild cattle in Hong Kong, he said.

Scientists now need to track the drug’s effectiveness by measuring hormone levels in hippo feces.

“This is the first time that we have implemented this procedure. We will follow and monitor it to determine its degree of success, ”said David Echeverri López, coordinator of the Cornare Forest and Biodiversity Group.

Escobar’s hippo collection started with a single male and three females. When he died, other exotic animal species were moved, but the hippos were abandoned because they were too difficult to capture and transport, according to the biological conservation study. They quickly began to multiply, extending around the Magdalena River Basin from their original home about 100 miles east of the city of Medellin.

Research has shown the negative effects of hippo waste on oxygen levels in water bodies, which can affect fish and ultimately humans. Hippos also pose a threat to agriculture and the safety of people in affected areas, according to the Biological Conservation Study. In May 2020, a hippo attack seriously injured a 45-year-old man.


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