Pablo Escobar was a drug kingpin in Columbia. Extraordinarily successful he had the money for some pretty impressive personal items including a zoo. Rather alarmingly, when Pablo Escobar’s rein over his crime and drug empire ended, his zoo was not looked after. A variety of things happened to the animals, but the hippos were largely left in the wild to their own devices.
The problem is that with vast amounts of food and no natural predators in numbers have multiplied rapidly and is currently thought to fall between 65 and 80.
However, a rapidly growing population will not suddenly stop growing when it reaches 65 to 80 animals. Scientists are now predicting that this population could hit 1,500 animals by 2035.
More alarmingly, currently the local population has become very proud of their hippos and enjoy the fact that they share their land with them. Hippos are incredibly dangerous: indeed they cause more injuries and the Big Five and crocodile combined. Not only this, but they have found themselves living in a warm environment with plenty of food and no animals that can hunt them.
In the UK they have problems with invasive rabbits, and in places even wallabies. It is quite a different matter to have to contend with rampaging hippos, an animal not only capable of causing serious injury but which does so regularly in their home country.
More importantly, with a population growing at this rate, where is it to stop. In 100 years time there could be 150,000 wild hippos in South America. This could do untold damage to the Amazon rainforest.
Colombia is likely to be wary of offers of help from the West, however we should make them anyway and make sure they are taken. What impact could hippos have on the Amazon rainforest? Giving the human pressures on it we cannot afford add further problems or the collapse of this huge ecosystem will be accelerated.