Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Escobar's Hippos

Pablo Escobar was a dick.

Take my word for it. Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria wasn't just a drug lord and criminal. He was a giant asshole who did some pretty messed up things. And he had it all. In '89, Forbes ranked him 7th wealthiest person in the world. He offered to pay off Columbia's national debt on 10 billion. Cash. Cars. Girls. Hippos.

He was born Dec 1, 1949 to a peasant life. Hustling and jacking cars soon lead to work as a body guard then kidnapping for large ransoms. By his early 20s he was making millions and according to his brother, they spent $2,500 a month buying rubber bands to wrap the giant stacks of money. And when the 80's rolled around and a sudden and urgent need for cocaine enveloped the country, Escobar really made a killing. No, really. He assassinated political figures, judges and even blew up planes.

So far, drug dealer and murderer... Now add child rapist. At 26, he married at 15 year old girl. Then, we can add yet another asshole label to it all for what he did to his animals.

At some point in all this crazy, he bought 7 square acres of land and built an expanding compound. A mansion, pool, and a zoo. Giraffes, zebras, ostriches, camels, even an elephant. But we will get to all that soon...

After escaping prison, Escobar was shot on a rooftop whilst running from police. And that's where he died. A day after his 44th birthday, Colombian National Police caught up with him (and his bodyguard known as 'El Limon') and it all ended there. (technically, a shot to the ear ended it...) His family believes that when cornered, Escobar killed himself via a bullet through the ear. No one knows for sure.

Escobar's land was given to low income families and the rest was left to rot. The animals had been left to starve and many died of exposure.  Except the hippos. They actually thrived. Normally, hippos are slow to reproduce. (Hence they are a vulnerable species and illegal to hunt.) Male hippos don't reach maturity until about 7 years old. Females only ovulate usually during the wet season and only ovulate again 1 1/2 after giving birth. But when in a hospitable environment with no enemies and little distraction, they multiply like rabbits.

4 hippos turned into 30 in as many years and they took over the compound. And that's where they are today. Hippos are aggressive and expensive to move and the Colombian government can't pay to have them shipped to a zoo. In the summer of '09, one hippo had to be put down after wandering off the compound and threatening to harm locals.

Don't you just love the idea of hippos sleeping in a million dollar mansion? I do. And I love a good example of nature taking over all things, eventually.

If you want to learn more about Escobar and his Scarface fame, check out "The Accountant's Story" written by his brother Roberto. Or check out the NYTimes article about the latest development here.

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