U.S. Court Rules Pablo Escobar’s Old Pet Hippos Are People As Columbian Government Tries To Sterilize Them

A hippo running with its mouth open

I even confused myself while trying to find a headline for this article. There’s just so much to unpack there that it took an entire article just to explain that one sentence. 

A lot of things probably come to mind when you hear the name, Pablo Escobar. Hippopotamuses probably aren’t one of them. 

Escobar wasn’t just the most notorious drug lord of all time, though. He was also an amateur zookeeper.

According to the Guardian, Escobar imported four hippos to his ranch in Columbia during the 1980s. Escobar’s personal zoo also reportedly included ostriches, elephants, giraffes, and zebras. At one point, it’s believed he had more than 200 exotic animals roaming his estate.

After Escobar was killed in a shootout with authorities in 1993, the hippos were basically just left to roam free. Most of the other animals were captured and shipped off to zoos, but the logistics of trying to move hostile 2,000-pound hippos were pretty much impossible, so the hippos were pretty much just turned loose along the River Magdalena in the Andes Mountains.

Considering hippos are basically invincible, they quickly adapted to their new home in the jungle, and their population began to rise. Just eight years ago, the population was estimated at roughly 35 hippos, but since then, it has more than doubled to be around 80 strong now.

Scientists are increasingly worried that hungry hippos might be causing ecological damage to the native ecosystem, and considering hippos are the deadliest animal in Africa, there is growing concern that the hippos in Columbia could pose a threat to human safety as well.

According to Enrique Zerda Ordonez, a professor of biology at the National University of Columbia says the hippos are also competing with agricultural interests.

“Obviously, you can’t let these hippos keep reproducing, which is what they’ll keep doing because they are in paradise. 

They’ll always have water, all the plants they could ever want to eat, and they can pop out of the river and eat grass with the cows.”

Debate is now swirling about the safest and most effective way to manage the hippo population. Some scientists advocate for the hippos to be killed and removed from the landscape altogether, but the government agency has started sterilizing some of the hippos instead to prevent them from reproducing and adding to the population. So far, 24 of them have reportedly been sterilized.

Maybe Columbia should just open a hippo hunting season? Because the idea of trying to sterilize something as big and dangerous as a hippo simply doesn’t seem plausible, and even Gina Poala Serna, one of the veterinarians tasked with attempting to conduct the sterilization procedure, admitted it was terrifying.

“The first time I worked with a hippo, I was terrified – these are animals way bigger than we are used to working within Colombia.

These are massive and territorial animals, so everything is complicated when it comes to working with them. The surgery itself isn’t the most complicated part – the tricky thing is anesthetizing them,

It requires a whole team of people, and as we don’t have those drugs for such enormous creatures available in Colombia, it is very expensive.”

For some reason, animal rights groups from America have now inserted themselves into the situation through a lawsuit that inexplicably granted personhood status to the hippos, though.

However because that decision was made in a U.S. court, it literally has no impact on any decisions being made in Columbia, says Camilio Burbano Cifuentes, a criminal law professor at the Universidad Externda de Columbia.

“The ruling has no impact in Colombia because they only have an impact within their own territories. 

It will be the Colombian authorities who decide what to do with the hippos and not the American ones.”

The court case is quite confusing, but it is important to note that this is the first time in American history that a court has declared animals to be people.

Though it’s not likely to have much of an impact on the future of Columbia’s hippos, the court ruling sets a precedent for courts to give legal rights to animals. If these utterly delusional animal rights groups have their way, this precedent could impact things like hunting, pet ownership, and eating meat moving forward. 

Even Christoper Berry, an attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund who launched the lawsuit admitted that the lawsuit was entirely about setting a precedent for granting animals the same rights as people in the United States. That idea is obviously so disconnected from reality that it’s shocking the judge took it seriously.

“This really is part of a bigger movement of advocating that animals’ interest be represented in court. We’re not asking to make up a new law. We’re just asking that animals have the ability to enforce the rights that have already been given to them.

Legal personhood is just the ability to have your interest heard and represented in court. It’s about enforcing rights they already have under animal cruelty laws and other protection laws.”

The court ruling also raises question that if these hippos can identify as people, does that mean people can start identifying as hippos now too?

What a time to be alive.

For more information on Columbia’s hippo population check out this video from Wilderland TV.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock