Authorities seized Pablo Escobar’s personal zoo in 1993 after his death. Most of the animals were able to find homes, but four hippos escaped. According to PageSix, the “cocaine hippos,” which were brought into Colombia illegally, have now started breeding at rapid rates, prompting scientists to warn that death might be the only way to eradicate what’s being described as the “largest invasive species on the planet.” 

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Ecologist Nataly Castelblanco-Martínez told the Telegraph that they could grow to reach dangerous numbers but action needs to happen immediately. “Nobody likes the idea of shooting a hippo, but we have to accept that no other strategy is going to work,” Castelblanco-Martínez said. 80 to 100 descendants of the hippos have reportedly terrorized lakes and rivers. Scientists said they pose a threat to the natural ecology of wildlife in their surroundings since the urine and feces of Escobar’s former pets are toxic. The hippos waste could cause illness among both animals and humans.

The animals could potentially grow to a population of 1,50 in 2024. Officials warn that their community can reach “dangerous numbers” in the next twenty years. Colombian environmentalist David Echeverri Lopez said that they’re racing to castrate the animals, even though he admits they are “part of the local identity.” Castelblanco-Martínez said that it might be too late to even move forward with castration.

“Relocation might have been possible 30 years ago, when there were only four hippos,” Castelblanco-Martínez said. “Castration could also have been effective if officials had provided sufficient resources for the program early on, but a cull is now the only option.”

Prayers up for wildlife.