The hippopotamus bred from Pablo Escobar‘s cocaine hippos are now considered people. The hippos were originally bought by the drug kingpin when he was building up a personal zoo in Columbia. With this new status as ‘interested persons,’ they are legally protected by U.S. law.
An Interested Persons is one whose rights or relationship is affected by the appointment of a guardian or conservator. Interested persons include legal representatives, spouse, parents, adult children, adult siblings, and other adults. Government agencies and health care agents or proxies can also be interested persons.
The legal representatives of the hippos in this case are now two wildlife experts in sterilization from Ohio. They’ve been able to be deposed to the case now that the hippos have received such a status. If they can keep the population under control the hope is that they will no longer need to cull the animal.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund was responsible for filing the lawsuit against the Columbian government. The hippos are an invasive species to the area, now living in the Magdalena River. Pablo Escobar started with four hippos and they’ve now bred to nearly 100. They are also in an area where they have no natural predators so they are a danger to the biodiversity of the area.
In 1993 after Escobar was shot and killed, authorities seized the property. One thing they overlooked were the hippos since they are quite dangerous to trap and transport. They thought nothing would come of it but boy were they wrong.
One solution to the hippos was to kill them but now that they are protected citizens that option is off the table. But U.S. law won’t protect them in Columbia and Columbian authorities are going to be the ones to deal with them. Right now they are attempting to capture and sterilize them but because they are so dangerous it’s been a difficult thing to do.
Animal rights groups are calling this an important milestone in the fight to “recognize that animals have enforceable rights.”