Latin America & Caribbean

Colombian vets begin Escobar hippo sterilisations

Zoo worker Jorge Aguirre makes a dental procedure to an hippo named Orion's tooth on January 27, 2010 at the Santa Fe Zoo, in Medellin, Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Some of the hippos born on the Escobar estate were donated to other zoos in Colombia

Vets in Colombia have started sterilising hippos descended from animals shipped to a private zoo set up by the infamous drug baron Pablo Escobar.

The hippos lived on Escobar's estate in the northern province of Antioquia but some escaped.

The population living wild is estimated to have grown to around 60 animals.

There have been years of debate about what to do with them.

The hippos have thrived in the tropical Colombian climate, its waterways and rich vegetation.

There have been sightings of them far from the Escobar estate, which has fallen into disrepair.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Escobar estate, called Hacienda Napoles, also contained 1,900 other wild animals
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The hippo problem has been a difficult one to tackle effectively

But the animals eat tons of vegetation and farmers' crops.

There have been years of debate about what to do with them and discussions about whether they should be culled.

But many Colombians like them and there there have even been cases of calves being taken home as pets.

Five years ago, the authorities shot and killed one of the hippos on the Escobar estate and the incident caused outrage. The hunt for other animals was called off.

But the government says the hippos pose a public safety risk and is funding the sterilisations from money seized from drug traffickers.

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