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Monday, March 1, 2021

the invasive hippos of Escobar terrorise the Nation !!

After that famous day at Gabba, I have now read at least 100+ forwards on a substituted team India won the Test with ease and created history.  Am no big follower of Football, yet the name Escobar did ring a bill – for I saw that 1994 FIFA World Cup match !!  the Colombian footballer played as a defender for Atlético Nacional, BSC Young Boys, and the Colombia national team.  Not sure how popular this name (Escobar) is in Colombia, yet this post on his namesake, a notorious don !

I feel and I think most feel happy and gleeful in seeing animals – visiting Zoo, though there could be arguments galore that they are moved out of their natural habitat and held captive by mankind.  There are many Zoological parks that provide good healthy natural environment and large space for the animals, though some of them could be in a foreign land !!  While the purpose of Zoo is different, the animals do face different types of trouble from the visitors !  

A few years ago, in  El Salvador, occurred the gruesome killing of Gustavito, an adored hippo, attacked and badly mauled with metal bars and knives that  shocked even the Nation, where killings are so high.  Close on its heels, came the news of a  group of visitors at a Tunisia zoo stoning a crocodile to death.  People at times turn crude, savage and do gruesome acts !

Hippopotamuses love water, which is why the Greeks named them the "river horse." Hippos spend up to 16 hours a day submerged in rivers and lakes to keep their massive bodies cool under the hot African sun. Hippos are graceful in water, good swimmers, and can hold their breath underwater for up to five minutes. One detail that cannot be misunderstood is that hippos are huge – mature males weigh up to a whopping 3,200kg. They also have a well-documented reputation for aggression and engage in brutal battles over mates, slashing and biting with their incisor teeth, which can measure up to 40cm (1.3ft) in length.

Scientists have got it wrong about hippopotamuses a lot over the years. Their name in ancient Greek translates to “river horse” yet modern science linked the animals to pigs. The most recent studies have found they are more closely related to whales.They also don’t sweat blood as once thought, but excrete a red fluid that contains antibacterial sunscreen. Plus the stubby-legged rotund creatures have surprised biologists with running speeds of up to 19mph. While hippos can be very aggressive towards humans and are considered one of Africa's most deadly animals, they are herbivores and the battle with the crocodile was likely territorial. The pair share the same habitat and clashes are not uncommon.


Slightly more than a dozen years ago, in 2007, 14 years after Escobar's death, people in rural Antioquia, 200 miles north-west of Bogota, began phoning the Ministry of Environment to report sightings of a peculiar animal. It was stated that ‘they found a creature in a river that they had never seen before, with small ears and a really big mouth." –startling for the villagers for it was not native to that place…. Situated halfway between the city of Medellin and Bogota, the Colombian capital, Hacienda Napoles was the vast ranch owned by the drugs baron Pablo Escobar. The estate covered about 20 km2 (7.7 sq mi) of land.  In the early 1980s, after Escobar had become rich but before he had started the campaign of assassinations and bombings that was to almost tear Colombia apart, he built himself a zoo. He smuggled in elephants, giraffes and other exotic animals, among them four  of these  - three females and one male. And with a typically grand gesture, he allowed the public to wander freely around the zoo. Buses filled with schoolchildren passed under a replica of the propeller plane that carried Escobar's first US-bound shipments of cocaine.

The animals now vast in number and fully grown are dangerous. Despite their ungainly appearance, they are very agile in the water and can charge on land at up to 18 mph (29km/h). It's often said that they are responsible for more human deaths in Africa than any other animal - though it may be more accurate to say they cause more deaths than any other wild mammal. Attacks happen when humans encroach their territory – they are not crocodiles – not instinctive killers, nor man-eaters. Yet  living near the animals is inevitably a risk, - one that local people have to decide whether they are willing to take.

Pablo Emilio Escobar Gavíria (1949 –  1993) was a notorious and wealthy Colombian drug lord and an exclusive cocaine trafficker. He is regarded as the wealthiest criminals. In 1975, Escobar started developing his cocaine operation. He even flew a plane himself several times, mainly between Colombia and Panama, to smuggle a load into the United States.  Reports state that he later bought fifteen new and bigger airplanes (including a Learjet) and six helicopters, he decommissioned the plane and hung it above the gate to his ranch at Hacienda Napoles. The war against Escobar ended on Dec 2, 1993, when Colombian National Police assisted by Colombian electronic surveillance team,  using radio-triangulation technology, found him hiding in a middle-class barrio in Medellín and  shot him dead.    

Following Escobar's death in 1993, his family went into a legal struggle with the Colombian government over the property. The government prevailed and the neglected property was later  managed by the Municipality of Puerto Triunfo. The cost of maintenance for the zoo and the animals was too expensive for the government, so it was decided that most of the animals would be donated to Colombian and international zoos.  Escobar's hippopotamuses became  feral, living in at least four lakes in the area and spread into neighbouring rivers.   Now comes the news that Pablo Escobar's 'Cocaine hippos' have overrun Colombia's waterways with their prodigious breeding after four escaped from drug kingpin's compound in the 1990s

Now  decades after his death and escapade by hippos, they became 100+-strong herd that rampage his former village. Their toxic urine and faeces are killing wildlife, say eco-experts. They are now the largest invasive species in the world with largest, wild hippo population outside of Africa.  It is apprehended that by 2040 numbers could rise to 1,500, making their environmental impact irreversible and their numbers impossible to control !!  their erstwhile owner, the King of Cocaine was once estimated to be the seventh richest person in the world, worth around $59billion in today's money.  The  Medellin Cartel once controlled over 80% of the cocaine shipped to the US.   

Now, dozens of the descendants of the original three females and one male roam the wetlands north of Bogota, causing untold damage to local wildlife with their 'toxic' urine and feces.  By 2040 the invasive population could swell to almost 1,500 individuals, making their environmental impact irreversible and their numbers impossible to control, a new study has claimed.  David Echeverri Lopez, a researcher at the regional environmental agency Cornare who led the 2013 sterilization effort, told The Washington Post that Colombia is a 'hippos paradise' with the animals spending hours grazing and basking in the Magdalena River, with no large predators to keep numbers down.  He said: 'I’ve worked for many years to understand the problem and find solutions, but the problem keeps happening over and over again. The only thing that changes is the number of hippos.'  

Attempts to kill the animals have been met with resistance by locals who see the hippos as unofficial mascots.  Gift shops in nearby Puerto Triunfo sell hippo keychains and T-shirts. At Hacienda Napoles, the zoo opened on Escobar's former pleasure palace and private zoo, a few of the recaptured animals attract tourists, whilst their wild cousins occasionally plod into town. In 2013 a judge issued a ruling making it illegal to kill hippos in the country, sparking the start of the sterilization campaign. But Echeverri Lopez said that sterilization of the 4,000lb animals is difficult to do and going too slowly, with the team managing only one a year, whilst the population grows by about 10%.     

The  animals have turned themselves into an emblem for a whole community of people. It’s not possible to just take them away.'     A renowned  Colombian ecologist working at the University of Quintana Roo in Mexico, said that the hippos threatened native species including the giant, guinea-pig-like capybaras that feed on the grasses and fruits now consumed by hippos, as well as endangered Antillean manatees.  In September 2020, the nephew of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar said that he found a plastic bag with $18million of cash hidden in the wall at one of his uncle's houses.  Escobar reportedly wrote off 10 per cent of his profits per year, $250 million per month, because it was being damaged by water, eaten by rats, or otherwise destroyed.  He owned luxury cars, planes and even two submarines at one point.   

Now moving to the other Escobar - Andrés Escobar Saldarriaga  played for Atlético and the Colombia national team. Sadly, Andres Escobar was killed in the aftermath of the 1994 FIFA World Cup, reportedly as retaliation for having scored an own goal which contributed to the team's elimination from the tournament.  At that time, Pele’s suggestion that Colombia would at least make the semi-finals of USA 94 wasn’t a crazy shot in the dark. Those would come later, six of them; bullets fired in a Medellín nightclub car park during a row that occurred in the early hours of 2 July, 1994. They would ring around the world, rendering millions incredulous that the captain of Colombia had been murdered, shot six times in the back, apparently as revenge for his contribution to his own team’s elimination from a World Cup that was not yet over. It seemed that for no crime more heinous than accidentally scoring an own goal during a football match, Andrés Escobar had been gunned down in cold blood.] 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
pics not mine .. taken from twitter and reposted. 

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