In the early 1980s, infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar created a family zoo full of exotic animals in Colombia, including rhinos, giraffes, zebras and hippos.
When Escobar's empire crashed in the '90s, the animals were relocated to zoos -- except for the four hippos, now considered an invasive species whose waste is wreaking havoc on the Colombian aquatic ecosystem, according to a new study published in the journal Ecology.
Escobar's four hippos have since multiplied to 80 hippos.
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego and the Universidad Pedagógica y Tecnológica de Colombia spent two years studying the water quality and microbiomes of lakes with hippo populations, and comparing them to those without.
This can lead to problematic algae blooms similar to red tides, which cause illness in humans and animals, according to the study.
Hippos are difficult to catch and dangerous to confront, the researchers noted in a press release.
This study suggests that there is some urgency to deciding what to do about them. »