Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hunt For Hipopotamos De La Hacienda Napoles In Antioquia CANCELED!!!

Colombia calls off hunt for former kingpin Pablo Escobar's hippos because Colombian's said NO MAS!

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia has called off the hunt to kill Pablo Escobar's escaped hippo and will instead try to relocate the beast after its mate was shot dead by order of the government, sparking outrage from animal rights groups.

The giant animals were imported from Africa by late kingpin Pablo Escobar and put in his private zoo. The hippos escaped in 2006 to live in the wild near the Magdalena river in northern Colombia, causing concerns about local public safety.

Colombia was shocked Friday when photographs were published of the dead hippo, named "Pepe," and by news that the hunt was still on for his mate, "Matilda," who gave birth to a calf in the wild.

Bogota-based beer company Bavaria, owned by SABMiller, offered to bring in animal protection experts from South Africa and Tanzania to find the best way to care for the surviving hippo and her calf.

"We have accepted Bavaria's offer. The hunt is off," a spokeswoman for Colombia's Environment Ministry told Reuters on Wednesday. "The idea is to relocate the animals."

Scores of protesters picketed ministry offices in Bogota on Tuesday, objecting to what they called the "death sentence" handed down against the hippos.

Pepe was killed by a .375 calibre round through his heart. It was a fate not unlike that of Escobar, who controlled most of the world's coke supply before being gunned down by police on a Medellin rooftop in 1993.

Pablo Escobar was so flush with cash in the 1980s that he flew in hundreds of exotic animals, including kangaroos, elephants, rhinos and nine hippos.

The African zoologists will also study what to do with the two dozen hippos still living at the site of Escobar's zoo, called Hacienda Napoles in the northern province of Antioquia.

"The experts, once they are here on the ground, can help with our effort at finding the best possible place for these animals to live, either inside or outside Colombia," said a statement issued by the Environment Ministry.

Most of the other animals imported by Escobar, seen by Colombians as symbols of his power and extravagance, were given to local public zoos after his death.

Report by Hugh Bronstein, Editing by Sandra Maler

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