Once upon a time, there were zero hippos in Colombia. Now, there are dozens. For that, we have Pablo Escobar to thank.
In his 1980s heyday, the so-called king of cocaine built a zoo in the country, shipping in a host of animals, including a few hippopotami. When he died in 1993, those hippos were left to their own devices, and like any reasonable animals would, they started mating.
Because Colombia is always warm and wet, with none of the droughts that characterize the hippos' native African habitats, breeding has exploded in a way that it wouldn't if the beasts were on familiar turf. There's no exact figure, but the BBC reports there are an estimated 50 to 60 hippos now living in Colombia, and at least twelve have escaped the former zoo's confines into the nearby Magdalena River. Several locals say they've had personal encounters. From the BBC:
"My father brought a little one home once," an unnamed girl told the paper. "I called him Luna (Moon) because he was very sweet - we fed him with just milk." Another child, a boy, told the paper: "My father has captured three. It is nice because you have a little animal at home. We bottle-feed them because they only drink milk. They have a very slippery skin, you pour water and they produce a kind of slime, you touch them and it's like soap."
Strategies for dealing with the often aggressive animals range from putting up $500,000 hippo-proof containment fences to hunting and killing them for barbecue. Supposedly, hippo meat tastes like pork.
[Image via AP]