Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22259 – 779:
Here’s the haps:
“One hippopotamiAllan Sherman
Cannot get on a bus
Because one hippopotami
Is two hippopotamus”
I thought I would do something serious for a change and talk about a real issue that a lot of people don’t know exists, Columbian Hippopotami. My daughter has been following, kind of on and off, the story of Pablo Escobar’s Hippos. A drug kingpin in the 1980s, lord of the notorious Medellin Cartel, Escobar had a private menagerie which included 4 hippos, kept in a couple of large lagoons on the property and kept in by electric fences. Escobar was shot down in 1993 and after a time the place was left to fall apart and soon fell prey to treasure hunters who basically tore it up. Of course, nobody bothered with the fences. Barbed wire means nothing to a hippo so when the electric fence stopped, they just started to roam free. Most of the animals from the private zoo were moved, but the hippos were harder and more expensive ($40,000) to catch and, well, after all, how much damage could a couple of loose hippos do?
Apparently a lot. The government had planned on opening hunting season on them but when the first one killed made it onto social media…You can imagine. I come from a state where hunting is a natural part of life and would not think anything of it. It is proven to be a good way to manage herds of wild animals. Not everyone saw it that way. Everyone sees them as cute and cuddly and don’t realize they are very territorial and very short-tempered. With teeth that are a foot and a half long, a three-ton animal charging you at thirty miles per hour is going to put some serious hurt on you. In Africa, the natives have thousands of years of experience and know not to mess with them and instead give them a, er, wide berth. The Columbians don’t have this advantage.
in the United States in 1910 there was a serious meat shortage. There was also a young congressman from Louisiana, named Robert Broussard, who thought that since they already had an invasive species in Louisiana, some sort of water hyacinth, and the swamps and bayous weren’t useful agriculturally, they could allow people to start hippo ranching. (I know there are some who are waiting for a punchline and wondering how I think all this crazy stuff up, but Truth is still stranger than fiction and this is all factual. Daughter was reading me these stories and I started wondering about some things.) Fortunately for Louisiana, nobody else except Broussard and a couple of impressive backers that I can’t recall at the moment, thought this was a good idea.
So, now there are between sixty and eighty feral hippos roaming Columbia. Even though they originated with a drug lord, try not to confuse them with the 60 – 80-year-old feral hippies roaming California. Anyway, there is a veterinarian in Columbia who has been making a push to try to sterilize them, but apparently this is a big problem. It is a seven-hour procedure and the anesthesia alone costs $3000. And apparently part of the problem is that both the male and female reproductive organs are inside their bodies and have to be found by ultrasound.
Here in the western US, cattle country, even nowadays, it’s a fairly straightforward process. There is a spring and a fall roundup and the calves are branded and castrated and sent back to mama(This is a gross oversimplification but it is still a simple process by comparison to working with the hippos.).
The thing about it all is, well, I grew up in a household that was all Westerns and Cop shows and I started trying to imagine Rowdy Yates of Rawhide on a
cattle Hippo drive. It cracked me up when I thought about the Rawhide theme song:
Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’Rawhide Theme Song-ish
Keep them hippos movin’
Though they’re disapprovin’
Don’t try to understand ’em
Just rope and throw and brand ’em
Wishin’ your gal was by your side…
Nah, it just doesn’t work for me. And even though the Llaneros of the Columbian plains seem like as tough a crew of cowboys as I have ever seen, I just don’t think it’s a job they’d want, either.