A fisherman is the latest victim of hippos attacking him. These hippos once belonged drug lord Pablo Escobar, but roam free in the Colombian jungle.
Jhon Arístides Saldarriaga Márquez, 31, was attacked on October 31 near the town of Puerto Triunfo, near Escobar’s old Hacienda Napoles compound.
Márquez was fishing with a group of friends and a young boy on a local lake when they were ambushed by a hippo which ran out of nearby bush and attacked them.
Jhon Arístides Saldarriaga Márquez, 31, was injured by one of Pablo Escobar’s hippos which attacked him as he fished on a lake in central Colombia
Márquez was fishing with a group of friends when a hippo – believed to be a female with a calf – stormed out of the bush and trampled him, injuring his arm, head and torso (file image)
He claimed that the hippo “hit” him in the eye, then he was injured on his left arm and chest when he tried to run.
Marquez survived the attack and his friends ran to get him to a nearby medical center.
Due to the severity of his injuries, doctors transferred him to a larger facility. However, they are not considered life-threatening.
A picture of Márquez published by Colombian media shows him wearing a hospital hairnet while posing for the camera in bed.
Officials stated that Marquez and his buddies were fishing on a lake where the hippos breed. They believe the hippo attacking the group was a female with an infant.
They reminded locals to not approach the hippos and said that, despite their friendly appearance, the animals are territorial, fast-moving and can become aggressive if they feel threatened.
According to estimates, there are 90 hippos living in Colombia’s jungle. All of them are descendants of four animals Escobar kept.
Dubbed the ‘King of Cocaine’, Escobar founded and ran the notorious Medellín Cartel which at one point was thought to be responsible for 80 per cent of all the cocaine consumed in the US.
He used this to amass a fortune of some $30billion – likely making him the richest criminal in history – which he used to fund an extravagant lifestyle centred around his Hacienda Nápoles compound.
Officials say the hippos – which escaped from Escobar’s nearby Hacienda Napoles compound after his death – use the lake as a mating spot, and told locals to stay away (file image)
Escobar created a private zoo with elephants, hippos, giraffes, and a kart-racing track.
After Escobar’s 1993 murder, which was fatally shot by the Colombian National Police, some of the animals were taken away or sent abroad. Four hippos however remained on the estate, which was then turned into a park.
The animals managed to escape and now live in the Colombian jungle, where they started breeding. They now number about 90.
Colombia has been pressurized to take action on behalf of the animals, but has so far failed to find a solution.
Animal rights activists have opposed plans to exterminate the hippos, while plans for all of them to be relocated abroad are considered too costly and impractical.
In an effort to save the animals from being killed, a US court ruled that the animals are legal ‘people’.
They became the first non-human species to be recognised as ‘interested persons’ by the District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
Colombia has been attempting to sterilize the animals to stop them breeding, but it can take months to successfully track, anaesthetize and then operate on even a single hippo.
Although it is cheaper than relocating animals, the surgery can be costly. Teams of vets are often given the task and complain that they are not adequately funded.