Pablo Escobar's Hippos Have Multiplied Since the Fall of His Drug Empire
Some notorious drug lords leave behind fancy cars, colossal mansions and bank accounts, a corrupt legacy and horrid past that Hollywood movies are often modeled after, or in the case of El Chapo, a labyrinth of underground tunnels. The infamous Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar has left behind a little something different that's exotic and potentially lethal — not fields of coca leaves, but hippopotamuses. The large creatures have multiplied since the fall of his empire and are now running rampant in Colombia.
During Escobar's reign, he established an army of soldiers and criminals to work under him, and he owned mansions and real estate all over Colombia, private airstrips and planes for drug transport. One of his most notable properties was his ranch, Hacienda Napoles, which is located about four hours from Medellin.
The corrupt Colombian drug lord built a paradise that consisted of swimming pools, a bullring, an exotic zoo with hippos, giraffes, elephants, among other exotic animals. It was a place where Colombia's most powerful gathered to attend drug-fueled parties and bask in Escobar's lair.
After Escobar's downfall, the estate was gutted by people looking for rumored stashes of cocaine or cash, and for many years the property remained in ruins. But with the notoriety and draw that still surrounds Escobar, the property is prime real estate.
The 3,000-acre estate was an enticing property to build on and reinvent — not only for its unavoidable ties to Escobar's horrific history, but it was a chance to transform something evil into something more positive that would help Colombia's image and yearning to break away from its drug-ridden reputation.
The Colombian government handed the property over to a management company that turned it into the largest theme park in South America called Parque Tematico Hacienda Napoles (Hacienda Napoles Theme Park).
According to Roads and Kingdoms, the park advertises itself as a destination "for family tourism, environmental protection and the protection of animal species in danger of extinction." Since it opened in 2008, managers say it has attracted about one million visitors, overwhelmingly Colombian, who pay up to $30 to get a peek.
Currently there are at least 10 companies offering Escobar tours of Medellin, which include a visit to his grave, the place where he was killed, among other gruesome pit-stops. For example, Medellin City Tours offers an Escobar tour for $45.
Since the electric fence no longer works, the hippos themselves thrived and multiplied. The local environmental authority, which bears responsibility for them, estimates there are between 50 and 60, with most living in the lake at the park, NBC News reports.
National Geographic's 'The Dark Side of Hippos,' calls hippopotamuses "one of Africa's heaviest and deadliest animals."
The respected Colombian newspaper, El Colombiano, reports that local residents are taking in the hippo calves and feeding them milk and bathing them, according to the Washington Post reports.
"My father brought a little one home once," an unnamed girl told the paper. "I called him Luna (Moon) because he was very sweet — we fed him with just milk."
Another child, a boy, told the paper: "My father has captured three. It is nice because you have a little animal at home. We bottle-feed them because they only drink milk. They have a very slippery skin, you pour water and they produce a kind of slime, you touch them and it's like soap."
Check out the video where Escobar's hippos were featured in National Geographic in 2008:
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