I’m still laughing after reading this report.
The offspring of hippos once owned by Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar can be recognized as people or “interested persons” with legal rights in the US following a federal court order.
The case involves a lawsuit against the Colombian government over whether to kill or sterilize the hippos whose numbers are growing at a fast pace and pose a threat to biodiversity.
An animal rights groups is hailing the order as a milestone victory in the long-sought efforts to sway the US justice system to grant animals personhood status. But the order won’t carry any weight in Colombia where the hippos live, a legal expert said.
. . .
The “cocaine hippos” are descendants of animals that Escobar illegally imported to his Colombian ranch in the 1980s when he reigned over the country’s drug trade. After his death in a 1993 shootout with authorities, the hippos were abandoned at the estate and left to thrive with no natural predators — their numbers have increased in the last eight years from 35 to somewhere between 65 and 80.
A group of scientists has warned that the hippos pose a major threat to the area’s biodiversity and could lead to deadly encounters with humans. They are advocating for some of the animals to be killed. A government agency has started sterilizing some of the hippos, but there is a debate on what are the safest methods.
There’s more at the link.
I know a fair amount about hippos, having had a few up-close-and-personal encounters with the critters. I wrote about common misconceptions about them a few years ago. A few days later, I noted the existence of the Colombian hippos, and how they were spreading into surrounding waterways. Earlier this year, we noted a comment by a Colombian expert that “Efforts to castrate hippos are not as easy as you would think” (to which my response can only be: “No s***, Sherlock!!!”).
By now, I’d guess there are well over a hundred living and breeding in Colombian rivers. Within five to ten years there’ll be several hundred. It’s an absolutely ideal environment for them, rich in food and with no natural predators whatsoever. They’ll take over the river systems throughout the country, and then spread further. Give it a century or two, and they might become apex predators in the Amazon River! They might have been controlled by culling the entire population in the first year or two after they made their escape. Now . . . forget about it. They’ll retreat into the streams and jungle of Central America, and those looking for them will never find them all. They’re established, and they’re going to stay that way. It’s what they do best. (You’ll find a number of videos of them on YouTube.)
Therefore, the news that a judge in Cincinnati, Ohio, has decided that hippos have “interested persons” status before the court is cause for a certain amount of hilarity. I don’t know if she’s ever seen a hippo in the flesh, or been overly close to one, but allow me to assure her: in the wild, the average hippo regards the average human as a pest, a nuisance, and something to be removed with extreme prejudice whenever possible. To call a hippo a “person” is probably about the worst insult the hippo could imagine!
Also, to the hippy-dippy “conservationists” who are proposing mass sterilization of the Colombian hippos rather than culling them: I have news for you. Please do go ahead. Show us how it’s done. I want to sell tickets to your performance on pay-per-view. The amount of (human) gore that will probably result is sure to be impressive. Adult hippos weigh up to two tons, and sometimes more. They have an attitude, to put it mildly, and are extraordinarily well equipped to put that attitude on display at the drop of a hat (and drop it themselves if necessary). The late professional hunter in Africa, Peter Hathaway Capstick, wrote of them in a collection of his magazine columns titled “Last Horizons“:
The hippopotamus is, without any doubt, the most incredibly underrated dangerous animal in the world.
. . .
[Hippos] leave the water after dark to eat terrestrial grasses and shoots, often traveling ten or more miles a night in search of the forage to keep their rock-hard, thick-skinned bodies going. In many African reserves and parks, overpopulations of hippos have destroyed the habitat for miles on each side of the rivers, necessitating the cropping of excess animals.
When a hippo leaves his aquatic home and is no longer in the security of his watery territory, he becomes as homicidally neurotic as Son of Sam. And that’s just when he’s healthy. If he’s recently had a slashing, blood-foaming battle with a rival and is in terrible pain from the long cuts and gouges left by the knife-sharp fighting tusks of his enemy, his temperament is about like that of nitroglycerine heated in a double boiler. Definitely, shall we say, unstable.
Most big game is decidedly unpredictable, but not so much as the hippo. If you manage to blunder your way between him and the water, he will usually charge. A decent-sized bull hippo will shade two and a half tons, and if you’re under the impression that he’s either slow or clumsy, you had better stay away from any African water bigger than a damp sponge. He can put that five thousand pounds of muscle into overdrive as fast as any rhino or Cape buffalo, and if he catches you, you’ll probably be a lot worse off. He has four fighting tusks as thick as pick handles and as sharp as the edge of this page. Whetting against each other as they do, they stay sharp throughout the animal’s life. On a normal bull, the exposed portion of the lower tusks will reach from gum line to tip about the same distance as between your elbow and your wrist. They will also penetrate your chest with the greatest of ease, which you might consider undesirable.
. . .
A hippo charge from close range gives one the feeling of being attacked by an oversized grand piano with the lid open. The mouth will open, exposing the tusks as he gathers speed, throwing a wake like a landing craft. Some I have seen were making more noise than a Moog synthesizer with a major short circuit; others were completely silent. Noisy or silent, he’ll have your absolute, undivided attention – I promise you … Considering that there are records of single hippos tearing ten-foot crocodiles in half, I don’t suppose it would be especially constructive for me to detail what happens if you aren’t very lucky.
I’ve (thankfully) had far fewer close encounters with hippo than Mr. Capstick. However, those I’ve had allow me to confirm that if anything, he understated the situation. You do not want to get “up close and personal” with a hippo. Under any circumstances whatsoever. Period. You’ll therefore understand that the thought of conservationists and environmentalists wanting to sterilize them gives me more than a few moments of uncontrollable hilarity! I loved the comment about there being “debate on what are the safest methods”. I have news for them . . . I can’t think of a single one. Danger goes with the territory. Watch where you’re pointing that scalpel, buddy, and don’t skimp on the anesthetic!
As for granting them legal “personhood” in court . . . suuuuuuure, judge. You go right ahead and do that. As far as the rest of us in the real world are concerned, they’ll go right on being hippos. They’re terrifyingly good at it – court rulings be damned.