Geography is an amazing subject. When you consider that the continents of the world were all once joined up it starts to tell stories of the emergence of life across the world and how certain animals on one continent can resemble animals on the other side of the world. One animal that is native only to Africa is the hippo. It can be found in 26 African countries. Yet it can also be found in one South American country, Colombia. How is it that hippos can be found in 26 African countries and Colombia? Is it due to the separation of tectonic plates or something else?
Well, the answer is something else. While we might think that hippos could have traveled across the world when the plates were joined together this theory just doesn’t make sense. Pangea, the giant single continent that broke up, existed 200 million years ago. While the hippo species only appeared around two million years ago. The timeline doesn’t work. Luckily though the Colombian hippo is not a mystery at all and its presence is well understood.
Colombia is a beautiful country with incredibly kind people, gorgeous food, stunning landscapes, and exquisite culture. Yet it is sadly most famous for one man in particular; Pablo Escobar. Escobar is the most famous drug dealer that ever lived. He is famous for flying drugs into America and at one point he controlled 80% of the world’s cocaine. At the peak of his business, he was earning nearly $500 million a week and is estimated to have been the seventh richest man in the world with over $30 billion dollars in total.
This kind of money means that you can do whatever you want. He did just that. At his home in Colombia, he had a private zoo. Here he kept giraffes, elephants, ostriches, and of course hippos. He brought the hippos in illegally from America. The private zoo was actually open to the public and was visited by local schools for many years during Escobar’s life. The animals were well looked after and although not Africa, Colombia proved a suitable environment for them.
When the government turned on Escobar and ran him from his estate they moved in and took the exotic animals to varying zoos around the country. Yet the hippos were too aggressive. Hippos are actually one of the most aggressive animals in the world. While they have a cute demeanor they are pretty aggressive in reality. 3,000 people die from hippo attacks every year. So when the police turned up to put the hippos in cages and ship them away, they encountered some nasty moods. They decided to leave the hippos at the Escobar estate.
As time passed, the hippos broke through the fencing and escaped into the wild of Colombia. Escobar had only four hippos, one male and three females. However, over the years they have continued to reproduce and the Colombian government now estimates that there are 40 hippos living in Colombia. 26 still reside in the Escobar mansion territory while the others are totally wild. Experts expect the number to reach 100 hippos over the next ten years if nothing is done to address it. While it sounds fun there is a real risk that it will destabilize the ecosystem of Colombia. Introducing a large predator to a region has never really worked out well.
The aggressive hippo could wreak havoc on human populations in Colombia but on the local flora and fauna as well. While small numbers of hippos are ok if they continue to bread they will make a permanent impact on the environment.