Colombia declares the hippo an “invasive species”

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Felipe Villegas/Humboldt

The hippos that arrived in Colombia when drug kingpin Pablo Escobar set out to create his fabled animal kingdom theme park in Puerto Triunfo, Antioquia, have reproduced to such a degree that from the original four, an estimated 90 now roam free along the banks of the Magdalena River, and navigate the waters of this sprawling waterway.

Despite conservation efforts to cull bloats of male hippos, the population of this species continues to grow, affecting local communities, the safety of fishermen and biodiversity of a region in which hippos have no natural predator.

The Alexander von Humboldt Institute estimates that within a decade, 700 hippos will inhabit the lowlands of the Magdalena. Based on the results of a recent study carried out by biological resource institute and Institute of Natural Sciences of the National University, a decision was made to include the Hippopotamus amphibius in Ministry of Environment’s “invasive species” list.

Among the communities most affected by free-roaming hippos are Puerto Triunfo with an estimated 33, Puerto Nare (10) and Magangue (6).

“We have been working with scientific and rigorous information on the roadmap for decision-making regarding control and management measures for this species in Colombia,” stated Environment Minister Carlos Eduardo Correa.

Among the recommendations of declaring the hippopotamus as an invasive species is updating the census, enhanced monitoring and tracking of the animal’s movements with drones and expeditions along the estuaries of the Negro and Nare rivers that flow into the Magdalena.