World, Americas

The plan to sterilize Pablo Escobar's hippos begins in Colombia

First 24 treated with drugs donated by US

Laura Gamba??????   | 19.10.2021
The plan to sterilize Pablo Escobar's hippos begins in Colombia FILE PHOTO

BOGOTA, Colombia

A solution to control the growing population of hippos left by Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar is finally in sight.

The hippos that were part of his private zoo where elephants, ostriches, zebras, camels and giraffes were also found, are being sterilized

The animals that Escobar kept at his Hacienda Napoles private ranch in the heart of Colombia, were smuggled into the country aboard drug planes in 1991.

After his death in 1993, most of the animals were transferred to zoos around the country, except the hippos. Four hippos, one male and three females, were left because they could not be captured.

Thousands of kilometers away from their habitat in Africa, the hippos started to breed freely in tropical Colombia. The animals have grown to a population of 80, prompting biologists to express concern about their environmental effects and threats to humans.

According to a recent study by Instituto Humboldt, a biodiversity research institute, in 10 years there could be 150 hippos. Authorities did not know what to do with the hippos, until now.

Environmental authorities have developed the first immunocastration pilot for the hippos. The government has intervened with 24 animals that have been treated with a chemical that will make them infertile.

Sterilizing the animals is no small task because they can stay in the water for hours, and tracking them can be a challenge.

The pilot program was made with a donation of 70 doses of the GonaCon drug by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the US Department of Agriculture to the region's environmental authority.

Compared to surgery, GonaCon is a cheaper option, according to Cornare, a regional environmental protection organization in the northwest of Colombia.

"However it is still complex since experts suggest giving three doses, based on studies and comparisons made in other large animals such as horses."

The drug has been tested on other wild animal populations, including wild horses in the US, kangaroos in Australia and wild cattle in Hong Kong, said Cornare.

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