Hippo Hunt Divides Colombia

Animal rights groups decry containment plan

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 11, 2009 10:59 AM CDT

(Newser) – Pepe the Hippo has become a divisive figure in Colombia. When the animal escaped from his birthplace near Pablo Escobar’s pleasure palace, the government and some environmentalists organized an intense hunt that eventually ended when a team of more than a dozen soldiers killed the runaway beast. But some animal rights groups say the hunt was uncalled for, the New York Times reports.

"Colombia is absolute paradise for hippos, with its climate, vegetation and no natural predators," says an animal expert. Escobar imported them, and 16 years after the drug lord’s death, the country’s still unsure what to do with them. For now, in part on the advice of wildlife specialists, it’s preventing them from spreading by any means necessary. Animal rights groups aren’t pleased. “In Colombia, there is no documented case of an attack,” says one. “No sufficient motive to sacrifice one of these animals.”

A hippo is seen in the Smithsonian National Zoo in this file photo.
A hippo is seen in the Smithsonian National Zoo in this file photo.   (AP Photo/National Zoo, Mehgan Murphy)
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As much as I love hippos, they are an alien species and extremely dangerous. Since castration of the males is very difficult, the only realistic option is to shoot those found off the hacienda. - Peter Morkel, consultant for the Frankfurt Zoological Society in Tanzania

Colombia is absolute paradise for hippos, with its climate, vegetation and no natural predators. - Peter Morkel, consultant for the Frankfurt Zoological Society in Tanzania

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