The Debate About Pablo Escobar's Hippos : Short Wave Pablo Escobar had a private zoo at his estate in Colombia, with zebras, giraffes, flamingoes - and four hippopotamuses. After Escobar was killed in 1993, most of the animals were relocated except for the so-called "cocaine hippos." Authorities thought they would die but they did not and now, about a hundred roam near the estate. Conservationists are trying to control their population because they worry about the people and the environment. But some locals like the hippos and a few researchers say the animals should be left alone and are filling an ecological void. The controversy reflects growing debate in ecology about what an invasive species actually is.

Contact Short Wave with your animal stories at shortwave@npr.org.

The Debate About Pablo Escobar's Hippos

The Debate About Pablo Escobar's Hippos

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A hippo is seen at the Hacienda Napoles theme park, once the private zoo of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar at his Napoles ranch in Colombia on June 22, 2016. Decades after Escobar died, his pet hippos have thrived. RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP via Getty Images

A hippo is seen at the Hacienda Napoles theme park, once the private zoo of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar at his Napoles ranch in Colombia on June 22, 2016. Decades after Escobar died, his pet hippos have thrived.

RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP via Getty Images

Pablo Escobar had a private zoo at his estate in Colombia, with animals like zebras, giraffes, flamingoes - and four hippopotamuses. After Escobar was killed in 1993, most of the animals were relocated except for the so-called "cocaine hippos."

Picture of a sign warning about the presence of hippos in a neighborhood in Colombia, near the Hacienda Napoles theme park, once the private zoo of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP via Getty Images

Picture of a sign warning about the presence of hippos in a neighborhood in Colombia, near the Hacienda Napoles theme park, once the private zoo of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.

RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP via Getty Images

Authorities thought they would die but they did not. Now, about a hundred roam near the estate. Conservationists are trying to control their population because they worry about the people and the environment. But some locals like the hippos and a few researchers say the animals should be left alone and are filling an ecological void. The controversy interestingly reflects growing debate in ecology about what an invasive species actually is.

Contact Short Wave with your animal stories - shortwave@npr.org.

This story was produced by Berly McCoy, edited by Gisele Grayson and fact-checked by Margaret Cirino and Katherine Sypher. The audio engineer was Stu Rushfield.