The Colombian government on Friday added Escobar’s hippos to a list of “introduced, invasive species,” which according to experts means the animals will be killed.
As part of his private zoo, Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar brought three female African hippopotamuses and one male to Colombia in the 1980s. After he died, the Colombian government left the hippos on his property in Medellín.
Now, between 120 to 150 hippos live in the north of Bogota, around the Magdalena River. Officials say the animals threaten local wildlife.
Attempts to sterilize the animals have not been successful. “Sacrifice [killing] remains on the table,” said David Echeverri, head of the Cornare state environmental agency, who is in charge of the sterilization effort.
“It is a necessary option… it could be the only way to stop the problem from getting worse,” Echeverri told news agency AFP. So far, Cornare has surgically sterilized eleven hippos and darted another 40 with contraceptives.
The government said on Friday it has a plan to “manage” their population but hasn’t revealed details. Former environment minister Manuel Rodriguez urged the government to use any means, including opening a hunt on the animals.
“Will there be a hippopotamus hunting season in Colombia?” attorney Luis Domingo Gomez Maldonado, who is trying to prevent the animals from being killed, asked on Twitter.
Earlier this year, activists with the backing of green parliamentary candidate Luis Domingo Gomez proposed creating a sanctuary for the hippos with a mix of public and private funds.
In October, an American court recognized the animals as legal persons, able to protect their own interests.
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