Check out the world’s largest invasive species: Pablo Escobar’s “cocaine hippos” and it is a huge problem now.
The fast reproducing, 4,000-pound beasts have taken over Colombia’s waterways, destroying wildlife with their toxic urine and feces, scientists say.
They’re not really carrying cocaine—they’re descendants from the late cocaine kingpin’s luxury estate, Hacienda Napoles after he smuggled in four of them from a U.S. zoo in the 80s.
And like other invasive species, they got busy really busy. With no natural predators and ample water sources producing a hippo paradise, the population has erupted to 80, and researchers predict that by 2039 the population will grow to more than 1,400. This hippo fleet has abused Colombia’s Puerto Triunfo ecosystem—fighting with native wildlife and polluting waterways with their poisonous poops that fuel algae blooms and decrease the oxygen available for native fish.
But they’ve also become very famous with the local people and they loved the heavy-hitting animals, and now it turned into a tourist attraction—there’s a whole economy surrounding hippo safari tours and now a theme park.
This makes hippo population control difficult. And scientists still can’t agree on what to do with them. Government efforts at management have introduced castration, but scientists only managed to castrate about one hippo per year, since their inner testes are rather tough to reach.
Other scientists say sterilization won’t be enough. In January, Colombian ecologists made the controversial suggestion in a population study that culling them might be the best hope of reducing the population before it gets impossible to control.
“For me, what is necessary here is to protect and preserve the integrity of our ecosystem over an exotic species,” study co-author Nataly Castelblanco-Martínez told VICE News, “even if this exotic species is super charismatic and super cute.”
Castelblanco-Martínez believes if they cull around 30 hippos each year, it might be possible to eradicate the population, which means less competition for native wildlife and cleaner waters.