Pablo Escobar's hippos: Fisherman seriously hurt in attack

Fisherman is seriously injured after he’s attacked by one of Pablo Escobar’s cocaine hippos

  • Jhon Arístides Saldarriaga Márquez, 31, attacked by a hippo in central Colombia 
  • Man was fishing on lake with friends and a young boy when hippo attacked them 
  • Doctors said the hippo injured Jhon’s left arm, left side of his chest, and his head 
  • It is the second attack so-far this year by the hippos, which once belonged to drug lord Pablo Escobar but have escaped into the jungle where they now live 

A fisherman has become the latest person to be attacked by hippos which once belonged to drug lord Pablo Escobar but now roam wild in the Colombian jungle. 

Jhon Arístides Saldarriaga Márquez, 31, was attacked on October 31 near the town of Puerto Triunfo, near Escobar’s old Hacienda Napoles compound.

Márquez was fishing with a group of friends and a young boy on a local lake when they were ambushed by a hippo which ran out of nearby bush and attacked them.

Jhon Arístides Saldarriaga Márquez, 31, was injured by one of Pablo Escobar’s hippos which attacked him as he fished on a lake in central Colombia

Márquez was fishing with a group of friends when a hippo – believed to be a female with a calf – stormed out of the bush and trampled him, injuring his arm, head and torso (file image)

He told local media that the hippo ‘hit’ him in the eye, then injured his left arm and left side of his chest as he tried to run away.

Fortunately Marquez survived the attack, after which his friends ran to help and took him to a nearby medical centre.

Doctors then transferred him to a larger hospital because of the extent of his injuries, though they are not thought to be life threatening.

A picture of Márquez published by Colombian media shows him wearing a hospital hairnet while posing for the camera in bed. 

Officials said it appears Marquez and his friends were fishing on a lake where hippos go to breed, and believe the hippo that attacked the group was a female with a calf.

They reiterated warnings to locals not to go near the hippos, saying that – despite their friendly appearance – the animals are territorial, fast-moving, and can be aggressive if they feel threatened.

There are thought to be around 90 hippos now living in the Colombian jungle, all of which are descendants of four animals kept by Escobar.

Dubbed the ‘King of Cocaine’, Escobar founded and ran the notorious Medellín Cartel which at one point was thought to be responsible for 80 per cent of all the cocaine consumed in the US.

He used this to amass a fortune of some $30billion – likely making him the richest criminal in history – which he used to fund an extravagant lifestyle centred around his Hacienda Nápoles compound. 

Alongside a private airport, kart-racing track and a bull-fighting ring, Escobar built a private zoo that housed animals including elephants, giraffes and hippos.

After Escobar’s death in 1993 – fatally shot by Colombian national police – some of the animals were killed or shipped abroad, but four hippos remained on the estate which was turned into a theme park.

But the animals escaped, and now live wild in the Colombian jungle where they began breeding and now number around 90.

Colombia has been pressed to do something about the animals, but has so-far failed to come up with a solution.

Plans to exterminate the hippos have been opposed by animal rights activists, while plans to relocate all of them abroad is considered too expensive and impractical.

And last month, a US court ruled the animals are legally ‘people’ in an attempt to save them from being culled. 

They became the first non-human species to be recognised as ‘interested persons’ by the District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

Colombia has been attempting to sterilize the animals to stop them breeding, but it can take months to successfully track, anaesthetize and then operate on even a single hippo.

While cheaper than relocating the animals, the surgery is also expensive with teams of vets given the task complaining they are badly under-funded.  

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