We all know Pablo Escobar was one of the notorious criminals of all time. The man who lived in the 1980s was responsible for a number of kidnappings, bombings, and assassinations. one of the founders of the infamous drug cartel named the Medellín cartel, one of the largest exporters of cocaine at its peak. Although the cocaine kingpin has caused problems related to drug trafficking in the past, a new problem established by him in the past is causing ecological havoc.
Pablo Escobar wanted to own and build a number of things that one only can dream of. He also went on owning a number of his dream architectures, and one such dream was owning a private of his own. He had a number of animals in his which were imported from various parts of the world. In such a collection, Hippos were no exception, and so they were brought from the African continent to be showcased in the zoo. But now, these hippos have multiplied in numbers and are spreading through the country’s main river Magdalena. Their presence is causing a serious ecological impact, and so a recent study pointed out that culling these animals might be the only option the government has to protect their local ecology. One of the lead authors of the study said that they do feel sorry for the animals, but as scientists, they need to be honest. She also added that hippos are invasive species, and if we don’t cull a part of their population now, the situation will be out of control in 10 or 20 years.
These hippos weren’t a problem back then when they were confined in a zoo. The real problem started when authorities captured the Hacienda Naples estate of Pablo Escobar right after his death. Then the animals in the zoo were distributed to zoos across the country but not the hippos. It is because they were difficult to transport and therefore they were leftover in the place thinking that they would die in few years. But to our surprise, they survived and even multiplied to about 80 to 120 in number in these years. One of the local veterinarians adds that it is the biggest hippo herd outside of the African continent.
Scientists add that the numbers are yet to get bigger, and the population might reach 1400 by the year 2034 without any control or culling, and this all descended from one male and three females. Their numbers are on a rapid increase because they do not have any natural predators in Colombia and the climatic conditions favor their reproduction as well. Drought in the African continent helps to keep the population in check from time to time, but here the hippos do not have a problem, and moreover, this climatic condition is favoring their physiology to attend puberty at even younger ages. Some scientists also believe that they can put endangered species at stake and alter the chemical composition of waters. They can also interfere and may cause human-animal conflicts in the future.
Although scientists say they can cause major ecological havoc in Colombia, some believe that they contradict the idea of culling them. Some biologists add that they offer to hope to preserve the global hippo population as they are considered vulnerable by the IUCN. Therefore, they suggest sterilization can be an effective way to control their population. But that wouldn’t be an easier way to do it because they weigh a massive 5 tonnes, and so they need the help of sedatives and cranes to carry out the procedure. Moreover, this procedure can cost as high as $50,000, and the official statement show only four animals underwent the procedure between 2011 and 2019. This procedure also has its own drawback as it is not possible to sterilize the animals living deep in the wild.
Other than scientists, the people of Colombia are strongly opposing the killing of these animals. After publishing the study to cull the hippos, one of the lead authors received death threats and calls from people. Although hippos are one of the dangerous animals on the planet, there haven’t been any causalities in Colombia so far. A conflict in the past led to a fatal attack of workers, but people went outrageous when a hippo was gunned down in 2009. This led authorities to protect hippos, which became an obstacle to cull them. As science advances day by day, we need safer alternatives to protect and maintain a balance between hippos and nature.
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