Colombians grapple with a big problem: wandering hippos

AP International News

Hippos stay submerged in a lake at the Hacienda Napoles Park in Puerto Triunfo, Colombia, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. The hippos, that were originally brought to Colombia by the late Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar as part of his personal zoo, have been taking over the countryside near his former ranch endangering native animals while also leaving farmers and fisherman fearing for their safety. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)

DORADAL, Colombia (AP) — An estimated 80 hippopotamuses, perhaps more, live in the area around the Rio Magdalena, Colombia’s principal river, which runs through the center of the country.

They’re descendants of four hippos brought to the country by infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar for his personal collection.

The rapid growth of their numbers has authorities worried that residents could be attacked. The 3-ton animals can be aggressive and kill more people per year in Africa than any other wildlife species.

Scientists also worry that their presence threatens the area’s native flora and fauna. In the 1980s, Escobar kept the hippos in a private zoo on his estate.

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