The governor of a region in Colombia where about 150 hippos breed out of control has expressed optimism that the Colombian government will give the go-ahead to send half of the specimens to shelters in India and Mexico in the coming months.
“We hope that the permits required by the national institutions can be approved in the first half of this year so that we can arrange for delivery by air,” Anibal Gaviria, the department’s governor, told AFP. ).
A small herd of hippos arrived in Colombia in the late 1980s for drug lord Pablo Escobar’s private zoo.
After his death in 1993, the mammals were left free and populated the Magdalena Medio region, a hot savannah criss-crossed by rivers, swamps and swamps where food is plentiful.
Mr. Gaviria is aiming to transfer 70 of the species to reserves in India and Mexico.
He explains that the development of the hippo population “represents a difficult situation for the inhabitants” of Magdalena Medio, some of whom are “threatened” by these animals, which can weigh two to three tons.
The local environmental authority (Cornare) recorded two attacks on residents in 2021.
In 2022, after a failed attempt at a neutering program, the government declared hippos an “invasive species”, opening the door to hunting.
Experts and Kornar agreed that this was a “necessary” decision given the threat to local residents and wildlife.
Through a massive plan funded by Mexican conservationist Ernesto Zasueta, Mr. Gaviria hopes to save them.
“We determined how the hippos should be captured, how they should be kept…and how they should be transported from the capture area to the airports in Mexico and India,” he said.
The animals will travel in “very strong boxes” and will not be given sedatives for health reasons.
Mr. Zazueta, president of the Association of Zoos, Incubators and Aquariums of Mexico, confirmed on Friday that he is taking steps to bring ten of these hippos to a reserve in Ostoc, northern Mexico, and 60 others to a similar location in India. .
Ecuador, which press reports also offered to accept some of them, on Saturday refused to allow the animals to be imported.