By M.P. Pellicer | Eerie.News
During the 1980s, drug kingpin Pablo Escobar smuggled 4 hippopotamuses into his estate Hacienda Napoles. He was killed in 1993, and the animals were abandoned.
Without any natural predators they have thrived and now number approximately 200, with the herd estimated to more than double in the next eight years. They have been declared an invasive species in Colombia.
Escobar's plans were to build up an exotic zoo of wild animals, however after his death many of the animals died, and those that survived were moved to zoos around the country, but the hippos were considered too large and difficult to move.
The 5,500-acre ranch located in the municipality of Puerto Triunfo, 124 miles north of Bogotá, and the surrounding wetlands, provided an environment in which the hippos thrived. Their descendants started showing up about 10 years ago.
In late 2021, the Colombian government authorized for 24 hippos to be chemically sterilized, and there are discussions of culling the herd.
However the communities at Puerto Triunfo welcome the presence of the hippos. They "have become a part of the local identity".
Biologist warn the hippos can damage the biodiversity in the rivers, as well as negatively affecting crops as they are herbivores which eat large amounts of food. They are aggressive, and are known to kill people.
The hippos have invaded extensive areas of the Magdalena River basin in Colombia, and without any natural predators and the warm weather, they have done what all species do: reproduce. They have been found as far away as 124 miles from Puerto Triunfo.
In 2007, complaints were made when crops were damaged, and a male called Pepe who attacked fishermen and killed six pigs was shot by a German hunter brought in by the Colombian government. Several animal rights groups protested the action, and the hunt for hippos was suspended. In 2012, a court prohibited it.
Escobar purchased his 7.7 mile estate in 1978. He constructed a Spanish-style colonial mansion, an airport, several swimming pools, man-made lakes and a sculpture garden. And let's not forget a zoo for exotic animals.
In 2006, the estate was declared the property of the Colombian state. Its value was estimated at $2.23 million. By the 2010s, a private company began operating the Parque Temático Hacienda Nápoles.
It is now a family-friendly theme park with water attractions, a wildlife sanctuary, and museums.
Thousands of tourists come from all over the world, and the hippos are one of the main attractions.
There is no denying that Escobar's connection to the park is a drawing point. Between the years it was abandoned and its reclamation as a tourist attraction, the hilltop ruins was ransacked by treasure seekers. Holes were dug in the floors in search of a stash of cash, and one over-the-top individual even showed up with backhoe. Despite the passages of time, people are still caught sneaking into the grounds hoping to dig up and find any of Pablo's money.
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