Pablo Escobar's Hippos Running Wild In Colombia

By McCarton Ackerman 07/03/14

The notorious King of Cocaine's influence is still being felt in his native Colombia twenty years after his death.

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An emerging threat. Shutterstock

More than 20 years after the death of drug baron Pablo Escobar, residents in rural Antioquia, Colombia, are still feeling his effects in a bizarre manner.

When Escobar first began to get rich off the drug trade, he began to purchase herds of exotic animals for a personal zoo that included four hippos – three females and one male. Naturally, the hippos began to mate on his vast ranch known as Hacienda Napoles. But even when the ranch was confiscated in the early 1990s and the bulk of the animals were sent to zoos around Colombia, the hippos have remained.

Even more bizarrely, Escobar’s hippos have become sexually active at a much younger age than most of these animals and the fertile females are reportedly giving birth to a calf every year. Local residents, already terrified of these animals that are already eating their crops and occasionally crushing small cows, fear the hippos will eventually run them out. International experts from the World Wildlife Fund and the Disney Foundation, who visited Colombia in 2010, said the hippo situation is a "time bomb" waiting to happen.

"It's like a sign of what's happened in Colombia in the last 20 years. And this past is still present, and Colombians maybe don't know how to deal with this memory, with Pablo Escobar's heritage,” said Mexican novelist Juan Pablo Villalobos. "All those contradictions are still alive there, and I think now in the most absurd way - in hippos reproducing in a river."

Prior to his death by gunfire in October 1993, Escobar’s Medellin cartel had controlled up to 80% of the world’s cocaine market. He is thought to be responsible for 4,000 deaths, including those of politicians, police, and journalists. After his arrest in 1991, he was housed in a prison of his own design and continued to oversee the Medellin Cartel.

The late Escobar made headlines in October 2012 when his 39-year-old son, Sebastien Marroquin, began selling a line of t-shirts imprinted with his father’s face. The former right hand man for Escobar, John “Popeye” Velasquez, also said during a February 2013 jailhouse interview that the war on drugs is “unwinnable” and that “people like me can’t be stopped.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.