When Colombian soldiers fired the bullets that ended Pablo Escobar’s life, the country thought they were free of him.
But now the infamous drug lord has come back to haunt Colombians in the most surreal way – with a herd of hippos.
Escobar, whose cocaine empire earnt him a fortune estimated at $30 billion, died in 1993. Since the 1980s he had owned a lavish Spanish colonial estate, the Hacienda Napoles, where he had a private bullring, a collection of dinosaur skeletons, and a zoo.
When he died many of the animals from the zoo were taken into care, but 24 of the hippos escaped and have been living in the rivers surrounding the central Colombian hacienda ever since. The population is now thought to be around 35-strong.
"This is a paradise for them," said Jairo Leon Henao, a local veterinarian.
"They have no predators so they are more at peace than they would be in their natural habitat and they have been reproducing faster."
In 2011 National Geographic made a documentary charting their story, entitled Cocaine Hippos.
But their proliferation – they are now the largest herd of hippos outside of Africa – could cause a problem for native wildlife such as otters and manatees.
"If they get aggressive they pose a risk to Colombian biodiversity,” said David Echeverri Lopez, a biologist from the regional environmental corporation Cornare.
“They could displace native fauna.
"It is an invasive species and very resistant to everything. They carry diseases that can kill livestock. They pollute the water courses where they defecate."
Yet Colombia is at a loss of how to handle them. Local people have grown fond of the animals – despite them being the most dangerous creature in Africa, they are yet to kill a Colombian.
An average of 2,900 Africans die a year from hippos - making them the world's most dangerous animal.
Two years ago the country was amazed by a photo of a small girl in a nearby village sitting on the floor, with a seemingly tame hippo lying on the floor next to her.
Later that year another unnamed girl told a local newspaper she kept one as a pet.
"My father brought a little one home once," she said. "I called him Luna (Moon) because he was very sweet - we fed him with just milk."
Another child, a boy, told the paper: "My father has captured three. It is nice because you have a little animal at home. We bottle-feed them because they only drink milk.
"They have a very slippery skin, you pour water and they produce a kind of slime, you touch them and it's like soap."
In 2009 one of the hippos, named Pepe, was tracked down and shot. Animal rights activists unleashed a storm of condemnation, as well as a flash mob of 100 hippo-masked activists dancing to “the lion sleeps tonight” in Bogota in protest.
Authorities have also tried to capture and castrate the animals, and call in Africa-based hippo experts, to little avail.
Mr Echeverri and Mr Leon, the vet, are building barriers of rocks, trees and wire to keep the hippos from roaming too far, and growing fodder to keep them happy where they are.
The wandering hippos have been sighted up to 100 miles away.
"It has become normal to see them around here,” said housewife Clara Nunez, 48.
“It's like being in Africa. It is a privilege. She added: "But when one gets close, it is a bit scary."
By: Harriet Alexander, new york
5 JULY 2016 • 1:03PM
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Drug lord Pablo Escobar's pet hippos roam Colombian village