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US court says Escobar’s cocaine hippos are ‘people with rights’

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Hippos at the Hacienda Napoles theme park, once the private zoo of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in Doradal, Antioquia department, Colombia. Photo: getty

Hippos at the Hacienda Napoles theme park, once the private zoo of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in Doradal, Antioquia department, Colombia. Photo: getty

Hippos at the Hacienda Napoles theme park, once the private zoo of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in Doradal, Antioquia department, Colombia. Photo: getty

Pablo Escobar’s hippos have become the first animals to be legally recognised as “people” by a US court.

In a case brought by the “hippopotamuses living in the Magdalena River”, the plaintiffs, known as his “cocaine hippos”, were accepted as “persons of interest”.

In the 1980s, Escobar became one of the richest men in the world due to his drug trafficking empire, and bought a variety of exotic animals for his Hacienda Napoles ranch in Colombia.

After he was shot dead by police in 1993, four giant hippos were allowed to remain in a pond. The so-called cocaine hippos have since multiplied to 100-strong, the largest herd outside Africa, and could reach 1,500 by 2040.

They are destroying the local ecosystem and are responsible for attacks on local fishermen.

Last week, the Colombian government announced it had sterilised 24 of them. Officials used darts containing a contraceptive medicine called GonaCon.

The Animal Legal Defence Fund (ALDF), a US charity, has argued for the use instead of another contraceptive.  

The ALDF wants to bring evidence on the hippos’ behalf from two experts in non-surgical animal sterilisation, but the experts are based in Ohio in the US.

Under US law, an “interested person” in a foreign legal case can apply to an American court to take depositions from experts.

The ALDF applied to the US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, which accepted the request.

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Telegraph Media Group Limited [2021]


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