Tucked between mountain ranges, the sprawling palace of Pablo Escobar in Puerto Triunfo, Colombia, was home to kangaroos, giraffes, elephants and other exotic animals—a private zoo of illegally imported animals that was the greatest ostentation of the feared drug kingpin as he reigned over the cocaine trade in the South American nation. Escobar and his Medellin Cartel are long dead, but one of the zoo’s prized specimens is flourishing in the tropical countryside and wetlands in and around the palace-turned-theme park—the hippopotamus.
Like the man who introduced them to this country after obtaining them from a US zoo, they are a source of endless controversy, reports the Associated Press. Government attempts to control their reproduction have had no real impact on population growth, with the number of hippos increasing in the past eight years from 35 to somewhere between 65 and 80. A group of scientists is now warning that the hippos pose a major threat to the area’s biodiversity and could lead to deadly encounters between the huge animals and humans. They say hippo numbers could reach around 1,500 by 2035 if nothing is done.