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It included a Spanish colonial house, and a complete zoo that included many kinds of animals from different continents such as giraffes, ostriches, elephants, hippopotomuses, ponies, antelope, and exotic birds. The ranch had a large collection of old and luxurious cars and bikes, a private airport and even a cart racing track.
The cost of maintenance for the zoo and the animals was too expensive for the government, so it was decided that most of the animals would be donated to Colombian and international zoos. There still are bison, zebras, a rare goat and one ostrich. Escobar's hippopotamuses have become feral, living in at least four lakes in the area and spreading into neighbouring rivers. Contact between the hippos and local fishermen has led to calls for the hippo population to be culled. By 2011 there were at least 30 animals wild in the countryside - the number of hippos makes it difficult to find zoos into which they can be resettled.
As it turns out, the Colombian climate is just perfect for hippos. Today, Escobar's zoo has lead to the birth of between 50 and 60 hippos. Most of the hippos live in the man made lakes in Escobar's zoo, but some have broken free and caused trouble. Fishermen on the river are scared of them, as they can do damage to their small fishing boats. Farmers are frustrated because the hippos destroy crops and even crush small cows.
In Africa, their homeland, seasonal droughts prevent too much breeding, keeping population sizes small. But in Colombia, the warm, wet weather is perfect for year-round mating. Scientists have found that breeding in Colombia also starts much earlier. While African hippos breed between the ages of seven and nine, Colombian hippos get started at the young age of three. A San Diego University ecologist told BBC, "It's just like this crazy wildlife experiment that we're left with. Gosh! I hope this goes well."
There has been some discussion of what to do with the herd of rogue hippos, but there doesn't seem to be a good plan in the works. They cannot be sent back to Africa, as they might carry diseases specific to Colombia. Zoos don't want the adult hippos. Castration might work, but it's very difficult to execute and expensive. Hippo proof fences seem like the best idea, but they are $500,000 a pop.
Because Colombia is always warm and wet, with none of the droughts that characterize the hippos' native African habitats, breeding has exploded in a way that it wouldn't if the beasts were on familiar turf. There's no exact figure, but the BBC reports there are an estimated 50 to 60 hippos now living in Colombia, and at least twelve have escaped the former zoo's confines into the nearby Magdalena River. Several locals say they've had personal encounters. From the BBC:
"My father brought a little one home once," an unnamed girl told the paper. "I called him Luna (Moon) because he was very sweet - we fed him with just milk." Another child, a boy, told the paper: "My father has captured three. It is nice because you have a little animal at home. We bottle-feed them because they only drink milk. They have a very slippery skin, you pour water and they produce a kind of slime, you touch them and it's like soap."
originally posted by: ketsuko
Yeah, as if the Amazon basin wasn't dangerous enough ... let's add some hippos. They're one of the most dangerous critters and kill more people in Africa than you would think. I'm not sure there's anything in S. America that can predate them.