The World’s Largest Invasive Species: Hippos From Pablo Escobar’s Collection

Pablo Escobar's collection of exotic animals has persisted in Columbia, leaving the world's largest invasive species.

At his infamous zenith in the 1990s, Pablo Escobar’s drug-fueled empire—a vast underworld syndicate built upon the United States’ insatiable appetite for cocaine—made him one of the wealthiest criminals in history.

With income peaking at more than $30 billion, the drug-smuggling kingpin spent lavishly on a sprawling estate for his family and members of his Colombian cartel. The excesses of Hacienda Nápoles, featured on Netflix’s wildly popular “Narcos” series, included a zoo stocked with exotic animals transported from around the world.

But when Escobar’s empire came crashing down, the animals were relocated to new homes. Lions and giraffes, sure. But relocation isn’t nearly as simple for the largest occupants of Escobar’s zoo: hippopotamuses, the herbivores that are placid in appearance but several thousand pounds, territorial and dangerous.

In the years since, four original hippo inhabitants of Escobar’s zoo have gone rogue and multiplied to more than 40 animals—but the count could be 50 … or even 60. No one knows for sure since the animals are difficult to track.

Photo: Julie Wolpers/Unsplash

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