Pablo Escobar’s invasive hippos are good for the environment

You probably know this name because it is related to the mass exportation of cocaine in Colombia back in the 80s. Being one of the richest criminals in history comes with many things; Global warrant to be arrested, facing death penalties, rival gangs after your goods and also a desire for non-native and exotic animals to roam around your grounds.

The critters that he did have to roam his lands ended up in zoos after his killing, however, four hippos found their own way in life and repopulated to a staggering 80 of them. Although, these hippos aren’t people pleasers and are known to be of pest origin.

New research suggests that Pablo’s hippos aren’t out of touch after all. To some surprise, they actually benefit the environment and have been compared to an ancient llama-like beast that roamed the area during the Late Pleistocene about a 100,000 years ago.

These huge creatures vanished off the face of the Earth (due to human hunting of course) and our eco-systems haven’t been the same since, so maybe these hippos are filling the void left behind.

“While they might look really different, in terms of how they influence ecosystems, they are actually not that different,” says study author John Rowan, a paleontologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. A hippo and an ancient llama might sound pretty distinct from one another, but they eat equivalent food, weigh about the same, and digest their meals similarly.

The same could be said for the water buffalo populations that are also seen in the same light as pests. They act similar (ecologically speaking) to the giant armadillos of the past.

But, because people aren’t used to seeing them in those areas, their natural reaction is to think ‘get those things our of here.’ Well, sometimes that could be the correct reaction if the creatures do look completely out of place and do not bring any environmental benefit.

Rowan argues that evolutionarily, yes, invasive species are probably not supposed to be in the places where they now roam wild and free. But ecologically, sometimes they fit in.

“That question of should they be here is kind of bogus because they are really similar to these extinct critters,” he says.

What does the term invasive actually mean then? Is it something completely foreign to a land, but doesn’t do any harm? Could it be a critter that is common, does harm but is vital to the eco-system?

Many factors play into the hands of what could be labelled a pest. A man who doesn’t like dogs could see them as one, leaving feces over the local park and what not.

As for hippos that are trying to fill a void left by giant llamas? Just because they are different and may surprise the locals, doesn’t make them a pest. After all, they are filling a massive void left behind while becoming a key chain in the local eco-system.

Credit: William Wand – The Figure Head

Author: The Figure Head

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