Saturday 3 December 2016

It's hip, hippo, hurrah for drug lord's legacy

Louise Crille

Published 06/07/2016 | 02:30

A hippo is seen at the Hacienda Napoles theme park, once the private zoo of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar at his Napoles ranch, in Doradal, Antioquia department, Colombia.
A hippo is seen at the Hacienda Napoles theme park, once the private zoo of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar at his Napoles ranch, in Doradal, Antioquia department, Colombia.

Two decades years after Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar died in a shootout with police, a strange legacy survives him: his pet hippos.

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Look out of the window in the dead of night in the village of Doradal and you may see one plodding down the street.

Police killed or locked up Escobar's drug gang, but not the hippos in his private zoo.

Left to themselves on his Napoles Estate, they bred to become what is said to be the biggest wild hippo herd outside Africa - a local curiosity and a hazard.

"I was going to football training this morning about 630 and there was one in the meadow, opposite the school," says Lina Maria Alvarez (12).

Just outside the village, Diego Alejandro Rojas (19), shines a flashlight on a black mass grazing among the tall grass. Its eyes catch the light and shine like glowworms.

"They come from the Napoles Estate along the canal after nightfall," Rojas says.

"They are like the village pets. I'm more afraid of the snakes than the hippos."

David Echeverri Lopez, a biologist from the regional environmental corporation Cornare, says it is the biggest herd of wild hippos outside of Africa.

They have thrived in this green spot in northern Colombia, but Mr Echeverri warns they are a hazard for the local area and its environment.

They break fences and defecate in the rivers.

"This is a paradise for them," said local veterinarian Jairo Leon Henao.

Irish Independent

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