- Authorities plan to relocate 70 of the hippos living wild in Colombia, however it’s not a simple process.
- Since hippos are giant, aggressive, and have very powerful pores and skin, sedation requires a workforce effort.
- Hippos that may’t be moved will probably be sterilized or culled, since they threaten the ecosystem.
Colombian authorities have determined to deport not less than 70 of Pablo Escobar’s “cocaine hippos” to zoos in different nations.
After the drug cartel chief died in 1993, many of the animals in his personal menagerie have been moved to new houses in zoos. But his 4 hippopotami — three females and one male — escaped to make their houses in Colombia’s Magdalena River. There, they thrived and began to breed.
Today, roughly 140 hippos live in the realm. Some scientists estimate their numbers might attain 1,500 by 2030 if no motion is taken.
As hippos pose a significant menace to each people and the Colombian surroundings, this can be a critical concern.
Before the hippos could be moved to new houses, they must be trapped and anesthetized, for the security of everybody concerned. This process could sound terrifying, particularly when you think about that hippos kill about 500 people in Africa every year — in reality, they’re one of many deadliest land animals in the world.
So, how do you safely entice, sedate, and transport not less than 70 of them?
Very fastidiously, in keeping with David Echeverri López, head of Biodiversity Management, Protected Areas, and Ecosystem Services at Cornare in Colombia. Cornare is the government company dealing with the hippo relocation.
Trapping, sedating, and transporting the hippos
“We hope to relocate some number of hippos this year,” López, whose solutions have been translated from Spanish, told Insider. He emphasised, although, that not the entire hippos will transfer to new houses.
“At the moment we only have interested zoos in Mexico and India,” he said. So, authorities will proceed pursuing different choices, from sterilization to looking for different zoos and sanctuaries prepared to take hippos.
As for the relocation itself, Cornare plans to make use of their beforehand established seize protocol, which includes trapping the hippos in a corral.
López said they put meals contained in the corral, lock the hippos in, and a workforce of execs anesthetizes them. From there, the hippos are put right into a crate, pushed to the airport in vans, and flown to India or Mexico.
But this is not a simple course of. López said it requires the mixed efforts of not simply the Cornare workforce, however also the assistance of the zoo employees who will obtain the hippos.
“Everything with hippos is risky, as well as complex, costly, and time-consuming,” López said.
That’s as a result of it is extremely troublesome to catch, a lot much less anesthetize, even one hippo.
How do you anesthetize a hippo?
Colombian veterinarian Gina Paola Serna told The Guardian in 2021 that anesthetizing hippos could be very tough, because it requires tranquilizer darts in a position to pierce their pores and skin, which is 2 inches thick.
Serna also said the medicine required to anesthetize such giant animals are extremely costly. Knocking out 70 hippos, then, could pose some monetary difficulties for Colombian authorities in charge of the method, however López couldn’t say precisely how a lot Cornare anticipates spending.
The thickness of a hippo’s pores and skin, and the density of their subcutaneous tissue, also makes it difficult to ship sufficient anesthesia to keep them asleep for the right quantity of time.
Why transfer the hippos in any respect?
Hippos are native to Africa, the place their pure predators embody lions, hyenas, and crocodiles.
In Colombia, hippos have no predators, and the moist local weather is more favorable for replica — a lot so, in reality, that hippos start reproducing at a youthful age than they might in Africa, the place common droughts assist keep the inhabitants in examine.
Colombia dominated hippos a poisonous invasive species in 2022, in half as a result of they disrupt aquatic ecosystems and diminish the standard of the water. They also displace native wildlife and enhance the strain for assets, López said. For occasion, they threaten river turtles, caymans, and the endangered Antillean manatee.
Not only do hippos take over river habitats; their waste also modifications the standard of the water. Lakes with hippos comprise more natural matter, which promotes the expansion of micro organism and poisonous algae that kill fish — a probably disastrous consequence for the people and animals who eat these fish to outlive.
And after all, hippos are enormous, aggressive, and really robust.
“As a highly territorial species with wild and unpredictable behavior, they pose a danger to local communities, including traditional fisherman and others living near rivers, who may be killed by hippo attacks,” López said.
To date, one particular person in Colombia has been severely injured by a hippo, although none have died.
Other choices: sterilization or culling
Environmental authorities have made efforts to medically sterilize a few of the hippos with Gonacon, an immunocontraceptive vaccine.
Cornare has sterilized 13 hippos, López said, and relocated seven to zoos in Colombia.
Yet these options have not accomplished a lot to halt inhabitants progress. With few different choices, the plan to relocate the animals happened as an alternative choice to killing them. The country will have to pursue different choices for the hippos that stay after this proposed relocation.
Some biologists imagine culling — killing a sure variety of hippos every year — is the only actual answer.
But after one hippo was killed in 2009, the ensuing public protest led to authorized safety for the remaining hippos — regardless of the actual fact they are not native to Colombia and Escobar illegally imported the original 4 hippos in the first place.
López said culling hippos is the last potential possibility, however it could actually’t be discarded, both.
“In the case that the animals cannot be captured, sterilized, or relocated, they cannot remain in freedom and reproduce, since the problem would have no end,” he said.