Get Informed, Stay Inspired

Colombia is aiming to control the population of hippos through sterilization, relocation, and euthanasia.
Americas Science & Health

Colombia is aiming to control the population of hippos through sterilization, relocation, and euthanasia.

The government of Colombia announced on Thursday that they will attempt to manage their population of over 100 hippopotamuses. These animals are descendants of those that were unlawfully brought into the country by the notorious drug lord, Pablo Escobar, in the 1980s. The plan includes implementing surgical sterilization, relocating hippos to other nations, and potentially considering euthanasia.

The hippos, originally from Escobar’s property, have spread to surrounding rivers and thrived. In Colombia, they have no natural enemies and are considered an invasive species that could disrupt the environment.

Officials predict that there are approximately 169 hippos residing in Colombia, primarily in the Magdalena River region. If preventative actions are not implemented, it is projected that the hippo population could reach 1,000 by the year 2035.

The initial step of the plan, according to Environment Minister Susana Muhamad, involves performing surgical sterilization on 40 hippos annually, starting next week.

The sterilization process is costly, with each procedure costing approximately $9,800. It also carries potential risks for the hippopotamus, such as allergic reactions to anesthesia and even death. There are also risks involved for the animal health workers, as the hippos are spread out over a significant area and can be territorial and aggressive.

According to experts, sterilization alone is not sufficient in managing the proliferation of the invasive species. As a result, the government is making arrangements for the potential relocation of hippos to other countries. This plan was declared in March.

According to Muhamad, Colombian officials have reached out to authorities in Mexico, India, and the Philippines to consider transferring 60 hippos to India.

She stated that they are currently developing a protocol for exporting animals. She also mentioned that they will not export any animals without approval from the environmental authority of the receiving country.

The ministry is developing a protocol for euthanasia as a final option for population control.

In the 1980s, a collection of hippos was introduced to Hacienda Nápoles, the private zoo owned by Escobar. Following his death in 1993, the zoo became a popular tourist destination. The majority of the hippos now roam freely in rivers and have been reproducing without regulation.

The citizens of Puerto Triunfo, located nearby, have grown accustomed to the occasional presence of hippos wandering freely around the town.

Researchers caution that the excrement of hippos alters the makeup of waterways and may have consequences for the environment of nearby manatees and capybaras.