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'cocaine hippos'

Colombia proposes shipping invasive hippos to India and Mexico to control population

Colombia is hoping to control a population of hippopotamuses that live near Pablo Escobar's former ranch by sending 70 of them to India and Mexico, The Associated Press reports Friday. 

The animals, so-called "cocaine hippos," are "descendants of four imported from Africa illegally by the late drug lord in the 1980s," and "have spread far beyond the Hacienda Napoles ranch," AP writes. When the ranch was abandoned after Escobar's death, "the hippos survived and reproduced in local rivers and favorable climatic conditions." Environmental authorities say there are approximately 130 hippos in the area and estimate their population could rise to 400 in eight years. While the Colombian government declined to declare the hippos a toxic invasive species, scientists warn that they don't have natural predators in the area and could threaten biodiversity "since their feces change the composition of the rivers and could impact the habitat of manatees and capybaras."

Lina Marcela de los Ríos Morales, director of animal protection and welfare at Antioquia's environment ministry, says that the plan to send them to sanctuaries or zoos in India and Mexico has been in the works for over a year. Colombia will send 60 hippos to the Greens Zoological Rescue & Rehabilitation Kingdom in Gujarat, India. The remaining ten will go to "zoos and sanctuaries in Mexico, such as the Ostok, located in Sinaloa," AP writes.

Authorities plan to lure the animals into large iron containers with food and then transfer them by truck to an airport in Rionegro, where they'll be flown to India and Mexico. "It is possible to do, we already have experience relocating hippos in zoos nationwide," David Echeverri López, a spokesman for Cornare, the local environmental authority that would be in charge of the relocations, told AP.