Pablo Escobar’s Pooping Hippos Are Polluting Colombia’s Lakes

by Brigit Katz/Smithsonianmag.com

In 1978, drug lord Pablo Escobar purchased a sprawling Colombian estate that he filled with an assortment of extravagant and unusual features—among them a soccer field; statues of dinosaurs; a bullfighting arena; and a menagerie filled with rhinos, giraffes, zebras and four hippos. After Escobar was shot dead in 1993, the country’s government seized control of his estate and relocated most of the animals living there to zoos. But the hippos, of which Escobar was said to be particularly fond, were deemed too aggressive and dangerous to move.

Left to their own devices, the hippos began roaming Hacienda Nápoles, as the property is known, and beyond. They formed a feral population in both artificial lakes and the Magdalena River, and have since been spotted as far as 93 miles away from the estate. Now numbering between 65 and 80 individuals, this herd of lumbering creatures may pose a problem to Colombia’s aquatic ecosystems—a poopy problem, to be precise.

“They only eat on land,” Jonathan Shurin, a biologist at the University of California, San Diego, tells Peter Rowe of the Los Angeles Times. “Then they come into the water and crap all day.”

In their native African habitat, hippos’ prolific bathroom behavior…

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