El Colombiano recently reported that children in a school near Hacienda Napoles are sharing a pond with the hippos. Photo: Juan Antonio Sanchez / El Colombiano
This story has everything: a drug lord, a once-grand estate in the South American countryside, hippopotamuses.
According to the BBC, hippos once owned by Pablo Escobar are still roaming the grounds of the late Colombian drug lord's former home, presenting a problem for locals and wildlife officials, who aren't sure the best way to contain or control them.
Their confusion over the situation seems fair. "What should we do with Pablo Escobar's hippos?" is not really a question one expects to face in life, but here we are, with a ranch full of hippopotamuses and very few options.
According to the BBC, the hippos were smuggled in as part of a zoo that Escobar built at Hacienda Napoles, his estate about 320 kilometres from Bogota. Escobar died in 1993, but his hippos remained on the land, even after the zoo's other animals were relocated. Locals started to call in hippopotamus sightings about seven years ago, and have since reportedly had some close encounters:
The respected El Colombiano newspaper recently reported that children in a school near Hacienda Napoles are sharing a pond with the animals, and having direct contact with hippo calves at home.
"My father brought a little one home once," an unnamed girl told the paper. "I called him Luna (Moon) because he was very sweet — we fed him with just milk." Another child, a boy, told the paper: "My father has captured three. It is nice because you have a little animal at home. We bottle-feed them because they only drink milk. They have a very slippery skin, you pour water and they produce a kind of slime, you touch them and it's like soap."
We're not experts, but we'd say that a pretty strict "no touching" policy might be wise, because hippopotamuses are not exactly warm and cuddly. Smithsonian magazine reports that hippos are believed to "kill more people each year than lions, elephants, leopards, buffaloes and rhinos combined".
National Geographic also filmed Escobar's hippos a few years ago. You can check out that report below: