Pablo Escobar’s pet hippo pothasol has been flooded in Colombia or has had a serious impact on the local water ecosystem. In the early 1980s, the notorious drug lord established a family zoo in Colombia that includes rhinos, giraffes, zebras, hippos and other exotic animals. However, the number of the first four hippos has increased to 80.
(Photo: Paul Maritz / Wikipedia, via Cnet)
When the family zoo collapsed in the 1990s, many were moved to the authorities, with the exception of the four hippos who were poisoned as pets, according to a new study published in the journal Ecology.
However, it is these missing animals, which have now bred 80 more, and become an invasive species that has wreaked havoc on Colombia’s aquatic ecosystems.
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, and The Pedgoggica Institute of Technology at Columbia University spent two years studying the lake water quality and microbial communities of hippopotamus populations and comparing them with other places.
The researchers found that as a nocturnal animal, hippos forage on land at night and heat them up during the day. However, their excretion of large amounts of waste in the lakes is changing the chemical composition and oxygen content of local water bodies.
It turns out that hippo’s faeces are fattening harmful algae and bacteria. This can lead to the proliferation of algae( such as red tides), which can lead to disease in humans and animals.
Hippos are difficult to catch because of the risks, the researchers said in a press release. The Colombian hippopotamus population will continue to grow sharply in the coming years.
As a result, local aquatic ecosystems may be further altered as hippos interact more and more with local animals (such as manatees and turtles found in nearby watersheds).
“If you map the population growth of these hippos, it’s likely to see exponential growth,” study author Jonathan Shurin, a professor of biological sciences at the University of California, San Diego, said in a press release.
In the coming decades, Colombia may have thousands of hippos. This study shows that there is an urgent need to develop treatment programmes on the ground. The question, however, is, who wants to do this drudgery?