Pablo Escobar Is Dead…But His Pet Hippos Keep Having Sex
Drugs are bad, m’kay? We have to make that one hundred percent crystal (and not the Breaking Bad kind of crystal) clear before proceeding to this next statement. Got it? Good. Drugs are bad… but selling them can make you wildly wealthy. It can also land you in prison or in a coffin. Those are much more likely probabilities. But for a very select (and sinister) few, the drug trade has created a lavish empire of unimaginable riches.
Just look at the legendary movie Scarface. Tony Montana meets a violent end (several decades spoilers, btw), but the life he lead inspired countless people who’ve seen the film and turned him into an anti-hero. You can see Scarface posters and printed button-up shirts all over the place. The scary thing? His life wasn’t even that crazy compared to one of the drug kingpins that the character was based on. Pablo Escobar’s life was even more ridiculous, and ramifications of his actions live on long after he’s been gone.
Pablo Escobar was a lot of things to a lot of people. It all depended on who you asked.
To the poor in his native Colombia, he was a bit of a folk hero. He was one of them in many ways.
Escobar grew up in poverty, but created his own business and became extraordinarily wealthy. But he never forgot where he came from, and gave back to the community in many ways. However, if you ask anyone else…
Yeah, he was also a drug lord who built his bloody empire on the corpses of countless people he murdered to get to where he got.
All of his money was stained in blood. And to be clear, it was a lot of cash (don’t worry, dear reader. We’ll get to that soon enough).
The Medellín Cartel boss left behind a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise, family and his extravagant possessions. But one part of his legacy is truly unique.
Escobar is remembered by more than 50 hippopotamuses that currently roam near his palatial estate, Hacienda Nápoles.
You may enjoy hippos and think they’re cute, so this info might not seem that alarming to you.
But rest assured, this is a huge problem. After all, hippos are one of the deadliest animals in the world. Escobar may have enjoyed having hippos around because they are also killers of men. But now that he’s long gone and they were left behind, a specific problem has arisen.
If you leave wild animals unattended, they’re going to do what’s in their nature, and that’s breed.
Daaaaw, look at that adorable little hippo. It’s a t murder machine! Isn’t it cute? It is… but it’s still a problem.
Escobar’s hippos were never meant for the rivers and estuaries of northern Colombia. Yet, they’ve been multiplying and establishing themselves as the largest invasive species in the world. And worst of all: no one knows how to stop them.
Oh, look. It’s a whole herd of invasive hippos. And they’re causing all sorts of issues in the area.
In the three decades since Escobar’s death, herds have reportedly broken through the compound’s fences into nearby waterways, such as the Magdalena River.
One of them was spotted meandering around a local elementary school. And although government officials insist that no human casualties have occurred, farmers and fishermen working in Puerto Triunfo are afraid to go near them.
Did you get nervous when you read that one of the hippos was spotted near an elementary school?
Does the thought of a hippo near a child give you anxiety? Well, guess what? The hippos are never far from kids.
That’s because Escobar’s old estate Hacienda Nápoles is now a theme park. So families get to visit the old mass murderer’s home with their children, and hope that one of the now many free roaming hippos behaves. Fun.
So how do you get rid of the hippos? It’s not like you can just politely ask them to move. Carrying them would be impossible as well.
Harming them is an option, but no one wants that. In fact, in 2009, a bull named “Pepe” was shot and killed by Colombian Army soldiers, sparking outrage from animal lovers.
Still, something needs to be done, as scientists who study South America’s rivers are worried the hippos might one day topple the region’s delicate ecosystems.
Douglas McCauley, a biology professor and hippo researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara, weighed in.
“This is all speculative business right now. We have a lot of historic ecological analogs for things that originally came from Africa and were eventually found in the New World.
Like the extinct American lion, or relatives of elephants—but hippos are just not in that portfolio. We’re observing a scary natural experiment of what the world’s largest invasive animal can do to its new environment.”
What Escobar Bought
Escobar had more money that he or anyone knew what to do with. But he put it to use, nonetheless.
In 1978, Escobar purchased a parcel of land in the quiet hillsides of Puerto Triunfo and built his sprawling Spanish colonial mansion that would become his family’s permanent home.
The compound once featured amenities including a bullring, cart racing track, sculpture garden and even its own private airport (no wonder it was so easy to turn into a theme park!).
As we previously mentioned, Escobar was celebrated by the poor residents of Medellín for sharing narco money to build communities and housing projects.
But that’s not all he gave to them. On his estate he constructed a public zoo, a bootlegged menagerie filled with smuggled exotica such as elephants, giraffes and zebras.
Oh, and of course among the animals were also four large hippos, three females and one male, that inhabited a small artificial lake near the entrance of the property.
How The Hippos Escaped
After Escobar was killed, most of the animals at Hacienda Nápoles were captured and transported to nearby facilities like the now-defunct Matecaña City Zoo in Pereira.
However, the hippos harem were left behind, likely because wrangling 9,000 pound creatures known for easily killing humans wasn’t exactly an enviable task.
So, with no natural predators (seriously, look how little they care about that gator) and a hospitable climate in which to thrive, they began to breed, and four became many, many more over the years.
Like the ending of Game of Thrones was bittersweet (or at least it was supposed to be. Grrrr…), this negative situation has an upside.
Biologists who study the animal and its environment are seeing rapid population declines.
Thousands of years ago, hippos could be found in several areas of the world. Today, the common hippopotamus is found only in Africa, and is vulnerable to unregulated hunting, habitat destruction, and ivory poaching. Scientists are trying to understand what the implications of a hippo-less ecosystem might be.
Continuing To Grow And Spread
However, thanks to Pablo Escobar, hippos can now also be found in South America, and their population is on the rise, whether we like it or not.
One survey estimated the hippos at Hacienda Nápoles will continue to grow at an annual rate of six percent.
Every fertile female is expected to give birth to a new calf each year. Individual hippos have now been spotted more than 90 miles away from the drug lord’s old compound.
Hippos are known as nature’s gardeners, because they eat tons of plants and poop them out. This can be an issue in an unfamiliar habitat.
Jonathan Shurin, a biology professor at the University of California said, “Hippos can also really disturb the sediment in lakes and rivers.
[This] causes stored sediment to come back into the water column. This has a big effect on productivity, and can result in all kinds of consequences. Whether or not their impact on ecosystems is similar or different in Africa—everything they coexist with has evolved in their presence.”
How Big Of A Threat Are They?
According to McCauley, “Here’s the thing with invasives: we’ve seen all types destroy ecosystems and totally rearrange their ecology.
[They change] everything about how they work and look. There’s no reason to think that just because hippos are charismatic they should get any exceptional treatment as far as how we try to manage them.”
How Could He Afford This?
So how could Pablo Escobar afford this giant estate complete with a zoo for hippos to escape into the wild from?
As we mentioned, by selling drugs. Lots and lots of drugs. And when we say a lot, we mean it.
At his peak, 15 tons of cocaine were smuggled into the United States on a daily basis by Escobar. This was the equivalent of five large adult hippos. He would also buy Boeing 727s, strip out all the passenger seats and fly up to 10 tons per flight into the U.S.
How Much Did He Make?
We’ve mentioned Pablo Escobar’s ridiculous riches and that we’d get to them. Well, here we are.
So how much did he make? With all that cocaine he was distributing and selling in the United States, Pablo was making around $60 million per day.
Let’s break that down a little bit more, shall we? That’s $420 million a week, $1.8 billion a month and roughly $22 billion in a year. Yeah… with that, he could have afforded way more hippos if he wanted.
Have you ever had so much money laying around it cost you money to have that money?
That type of problem makes no sense to you or we, but for Pablo, this was a genuine issue.
Pablo’s brother, Roberto, indicated that he and his brother’s operation spent $1,000 per week purchasing rubber bands, which were used to wrap the stacks of cash. That’s four grand a month… just on rubber bands! He was paying multiple rents just to bind his cash.
When criminals worry about rats, it’s usually a derogatory term for snitches. But for Escobar, he had a literal rat problem.
Pablo made so much cash that he began storing it in warehouses, and 10 percent of this had to be written off due to “spoilage.”
That spoilage was rats that would come into the warehouse at night and nibble on the thousands of 100 dollar bills. That’s $2.2 billion annually that was eaten. And we thought that hippos were hungry, hungry.
Escobar's Lingering Legacy
Long after he’s gone, Pablo Escobar’s memory remains in Medellín’s countryside. In hippo form! And some speculate that the issue could potentially be solved, but has not on purpose.
Shurin said, “With most invasives, once the cat’s out of the bag there’s no going back, but with hippos that’s probably not the case.
If they really wanted to remove them, they could. It seems the hippos have become a tourist attraction and have some economic value. The will is not there to remove them.”