Some 100 Hipoppotamus supporters staged a brief flash mob in Bogota´s parquet de la 93 Thursday evening.
Wearing hippo masks and dancing to ‘the lion sleeps tonight’, demonstrators protested the recent “assassination” of Pepe, a male hippo that was hunted down by local authorities near Puerto Berrio last week.
In the early eighties, drug dealer Pablo Escobar brought six hippos to his Hacienda Napoles ranch near the Magdalena river, were he amassed a collection of wild animals that included a giraffe, peacocks and alligators.
The hippos adapted to the hot and humid weather of Colombia´s Magdalena Medio region and by the time Escobar was killed in 1993 the giant pachiderms had already begun to reproduce.
By 2007, a troupe of 25 Hippos roamed the grounds of the half abandoned Hacienda Napoles, but Pepe was forced to leave the ranch after an apparent turf battle with the herd´s alpha male.
Pepe roamed Colombia´s Magdalena Medio river for two years, scaring fishermen and allegedly killing three young calves. Local authorities said Pepe was a security threat, and the ministry of the environment ordered his execution after several attempts to capture the Hippo had failed.
The national media followed Pepe´s case with detail and environmentalists are indignated by his “assassination.” “Pepe is a symbol of what´s going on in this country,” said protest organizer Santiago Rodriguez. “We want to show people and the government that bullets are not the only way to solve a problem.”
Two more “narco” hippos -a female and her offspring- are still at large near Puerto Berrio. Local authorities have cancelled orders to hunt these animals, as they look for institutions that will adopt them.