Drug lord Pablo Escobar, who made a cocaine fortune while ravaging Colombia in the ‘80s, paid for those transgressions: He was shot and killed in 1993.
But among his surprising legacies that remain? A collection of hippos that have since proliferated and thrived. Yes, you read that right.
You see, in addition to being a ruthless killer and terrorist, Escobar also fancied himself a Robin Hood-like figure (a role depicted in the Netflix series Narcos, which you should promptly binge watch if you haven’t already). He helped out impoverished communities, in such ways as setting up soccer teams… and inviting local Colombians to visit a private zoo he constructed as an attraction, located on his property between Medellin and the country’s capital. (That’s Bogota, not the Romanian village of Bogata, if you’re easily confused like Snoop Dogg.)
He had all kinds of animals there, most of which were later relocated — but it seems the hippos still remain. And according to a National Geographic report, they’re not only still alive… but flourishing. That’s thanks to a mild climate and no competition in the wild. (There's also a 2010 documentary called Pablo's Hippos on the subject.)
A zoo worker performed dentistry on a hippo at the Santa Fe Zoo in Medellin. The animal was born in captivity from a hippo once owned by Escobar.
Well, now the animals have started to wander, meandering into nearby areas and freaking people out. (Imagine seeing a massive hippo saunter in your direction. Like NBD, right?)
According to University of California San Diego biologist Jonathan Shurin cited in the Nat Geo report, the population of animals could now near 40. “Within 10 years that could grow to nearly 100, if we don't manage them,” he said.
He also called the animals “charismatic” (like Escobar, you might say) and said that people love them — despite recognizing the danger they could pose. So hunting them to manage the population growth would be scandalous, and eating their meat is a no-go given they carry disease.
So for now, Escobar’s hippos continue to chill peacefully in Colombia, as the tourists who’d fled the country altogether during Escobar’s reign begin to flock back in and explore the beautiful country.
Jet Set is Bravo's launch pad for the most extravagant, luxurious, and unforgettable travel experiences. Ready for takeoff? Then Like us on Facebook to stay connected to our daily updates.