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Meet the Colombian Hippos!

There are vegan hippopotami in Colombia!

The cocaine drug lord, Pablo Escobar, bought them and placed them in his ‘Noah’s Ark’ style zoo. Escobar was shot by the Colombian National Police in 1993. The other animals were moved out to zoos and other places, the hippos stayed. They very slowly multiplied, then some took off for the Magdalena River. Now there are a few small groups along the river and at their original home, now turned into a ‘Hippo Amusement Park’. There are around 80 or so beautiful beasts eating at massive food troughs of 100% vegan food, where tourists can get a closer look and snap a photo, before they launch back into the water for some afternoon swim laps and naps.

As you know, Animal Balance creates humane animal management programs. We believe that all non-human animals deserve our respect and protection. We do not think that it is right to kill one species to save another……… already know where I am going with this..……………and yes, can you imagine the size of the spay hook?

But, before we talk about fixing hippos, let me tell you how this came about as it is not your everyday day run of the mill conversation….

I am sweating buckets with Jessica Gonzales and Dr. Isa Naudin on the Galapagos in February. It’s at least a million degrees as we provide wellness and medical services to the cats and dogs of San Cristóbal Island. The island still does not have a vet, but I am so glad we managed to get in during February and help those who we could. This was before we even heard the word COVID. We were at the ‘clinic’ sharing travel stories and chatting to the community about ‘Preciosa’, which is the name given to the majority of female dogs on planet earth…..we did a study ;) Dr. Isa then asked me if I knew that there were hippos in Colombia. I did not.

But she had my attention.

She told me the story and how many Colombian people stood up for the protection of the hippos when the authorities were planning, and then did, shoot to death a male hippo. This beautiful hippo was well known in the community and wandered through the village on a regular basis. The local biologist told Isa that the hippos actually help the ecosystem develop and have even……this is the ironic part…have helped to stop the illegal fishing along the Magdalena River. The fish bandits don’t go near them, the hippos are protecting them by default!

We started talking to everyone associated with the hippos in Colombia and anyone we could find in the US who could provide further information. The best option appears to be a mix of tubal ligation and vasectomies and to use the contraceptive, GonaCon, to buy us more time.

Dr. Isa is Animal Balance’s Medical Director for Latin America. She is creating and leading the sterilization program for Colombia’s hippos and Animal Balance will advise, connect, raise funds and awareness of the situation.

We are going to come up with fabulous ways to raise funds to sterilize the hippos. One mammoth surgery at a time. Please donate to our Fix a Hippo program by making a monthly donation. You can donate via PayPal or Stripe. These animals have found themselves, through no fault of their own, in a country that did not have hippos, but now they do.

The Colombian hippo is quite different from their African counterparts. They are more mellow because they don’t have to consider droughts, there is water everywhere in that region of Colombia. In Africa, the males fight to keep their water holes. In Colombia, the hippos have access to food. They even help the ecosystem. They are coexisting with the local people, for the most part. In Africa they are the second most dangerous creature on the, which is seemingly not the case with their more mellow cousins over in Colombia. They may look the same, but just like with cats, they are not.

One hippo is not all hippos, as one cat is not all cats.

Like with the dogs and cats of the Galapagos Islands, they are not protected - but we helped to change the situation on the Galapagos over the last 2 decades, not by fighting over legalities or human given titles such as ‘native or non-native’, but by helping the community to coexist with them. The hippos, non-human animals, and humans can coexist In Colombia. We can help protect them by helping to sterilize them, therefore, humanely controlling the population.

"That listening to the call of nature in these hard times that we are living, allows us to take the necessary step to reconcile with every living being on the planet, that we stop destroying and begin to build an environment of coexistence" Dr. Isa Naudin

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