A long time ago, in a country with a nasty reputation for violence, kidnapping and cocaine trafficking, there lived a man named Pablo Escobar. Little Pablo was the most violent, kidnappiest cocaine trafficker in the whole big country, which we’ll call Colombia. He made a fortune on the country’s most popular export and used the proceeds from his years long reign of terror to build a magical wonderland in the wilds near Bogota. He called this place Hacienda Napoles, and he filled it with myriad delights, including a full zoo that he made available to the public.
Then, in 1993, Mr. Pablo ran afoul of some government types who didn’t appreciate him making $60 million a day. These officials chased Pablo down until they had a chance to put lots of holes in him and then parade his corpse around for the world to see. Escobar’s empire was subsequently dismantled piece by piece. All, except for a pack of four hippos who were left behind.
For the last twenty years, this pack of hippopotamuses has been allowed to stay in the home that Escobar created for them at the height of his power. According to the BBC, the once pristine zoo that housed them has been overrun with flora and fauna and the hippos have been left to their own devices. Fortunately for the hippos, Colombia seems to be a pitch perfect environment for the world’s third largest land mammal.
For their size, hippos actually eat a really tiny amount of food, consuming only 80 pounds of grass a day. That meager dietary need combined with a hippopotamus’ natural resistance to disease makes it fairly easy for the species to thrive, provided there aren’t people around to hunt them to near extinction (which is increasingly the case in their native Africa). Even better (for the hippos), the native environment of Colombia has turned Escobar’s hippos into a pack of horny teenagers.
You see, hippos don’t tend to mature sexually until they’re about seven. Hippos in Colombia, on the other hand, tend to start chasing the opposite sex at the tender age of three. Meanwhile, African hippos usually have a calf once every other year; Pablo’s hippos are popping out kids once a year.
At the moment, the growing herd of hippos is largely confined to Hacienda Napoles; so far only about 12 are suspected to have escaped the ranch. Since hippos – which are notoriously aggressive to begin with – tend to get meaner and more hostile when packed together, Colombian officials are understandably concerned. Scientists caution that unless something is done to control to growing population, they may meet the same bullet-riddled fate as their owner.
One has to wonder, however, if this may accidentally be a good thing. After all, the population of the African hippo is in serious decline; maybe the transplant is just the shot in the arm the species needs to thrive again. Sure, if their population is left unchecked they would essentially be the most fearsome predator Colombia has ever seen (with the possible exception of Pablo Escobar), but right now the only downside to the hippos’ infestation is a couple of scared fisherman.