‘The Hunt for Escobar’s Hippos’ Clip: Shedding Light on Colombia’s Hippo Problem

In the 1980s, drug kingpin Pablo Escobar illegally brought four African hippos into Colombia where they were an important addition to his exotic animal collection housed on his estate. In Smithsonian Channel’s The Hunt for Escobar’s Hippos, the impact of setting them free after he died is examined in detail.

There aren’t any natural predators in Colombia which resulted in the hippos multiplying and terrorizing villages. However, Colombians apparently don’t mind living with the threat of roaming hippopotamuses.

“This was a story we immediately knew we had to tell,” said executive producer for Smithsonian Channel, Tria Thalman. “Americans know Escobar’s legacy all too well but this invasion of hippos that now threatens Colombia’s wildlife is a remarkable, unexpected twist to the sordid tale of drugs and violence.”

Phil Fairclough, Ted Oakes, Sabine Holzer, Susanne Lummer, and David Royle also served as executive producers.

The Hunt for Escobar’s Hippos will premiere on Wednesday, August 26, 2020 at 8pm ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel.

The Hunt for Escobar's Hippos
Shot of hippo at Hacienda Napoles taken by Escobar’s private photographer, Edgar Jimenez

The Hunt for Escobar’s Hippos Details, Courtesy of Smithsonian Channel:

Notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s brutal regime ended in a hail of bullets. His infamous reign of terror left Colombia with the legacy of a corrupt narco-state and something more bizarre: African hippos. In the 1980s, Escobar smuggled four hippos into Colombia to join his growing collection of exotic animals at his $63 million estate outside Medellin.

Left to fend for themselves in the wake of his death, these extremely dangerous beasts – responsible for more deaths in Africa than lions or crocodiles – broke out. Today, breeding at twice their typical rate and with no natural predators keeping them in check, more than 60 roam the Colombian wilds, wreaking havoc in villages at night and threatening the ecosystem that feeds into the Magdalena River, Colombia’s main watershed.

Surprisingly, Colombians adore their hippos despite the dangers, and it’s illegal to cull them. Left with no other option, Colombian veterinarian Dr. Gina Serna is tasked with capturing and sterilizing them – an operation extremely difficult to perform in the wild of Colombia. The situation of the Colombian hippopotamus is an ecological time bomb that urgently needs to be diffused. As the largest foreign invader in Colombia, these formidable creatures pose not only a serious threat to human life, but also to the country’s wildlife and native ecosystem. Aggressively frontal and territorial, the consequences could be catastrophic.