Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar was known for his love towards exotic animals. In early 1980s, Escobar built an illegal zoo in his estate which was full of rhinos, giraffes, zebras and hippos.
After Escobar was killed in 1993, most of the animals were shifted to zoos but not the four hippos. Relocating the hippos wasn’t possible and the animals soon started living by the Magdalena river.
Their numbers have grown over the years and are close to 80 now. According to a study published in the journal Ecology, the hippos have become an invasive species and are wreaking havoc on the aquatic ecosystem.
A team of researchers from the University of California in San Diego and the Universidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica de Colombia studied the water quality of the lakes where hippos live, and compared it with lakes where they don’t.
According to the study, hippos excrete large amounts of waste into the lakes, changing the water’s chemistry and oxygen levels. This is because the excreted waste fertilizes harmful algae and bacteria.
According to Jonathan Shurin, lead author of the study, the hippos have a big impact on the ecosystem in their native Africa. He said a similar impact was seen when they were imported into an entirely new continent.
The study warned that the hippo population could spur in South America in the next few years. Their growth could harm other creatures living in the rivers such as turtles.