BOGOTA – One fugitive hippo down, two to go.
Colombian bounty hunters with orders to kill are seeking the two remaining hippopotamuses that escaped from the famous menagerie of fallen Colombian drug baron Pablo Escobar.
The three mammals bust loose from the zoo two years ago and have survived on the lush vegetation of the steamy Magdalena valley in northwestern Colombia, far from their native Africa.
Colombian wildlife authorities say the decision to order the animals killed wasn't easy and was made after locals complained the massive beasts were damaging crops and livestock, and endangering the lives of fishermen and ranchers.
The first hippo — a 1 1/2-ton male — was killed by two hunters near a river in Antioquia province on June 18, but the news was first reported on Friday by Colombian news media.
During his heyday at the head of the Medellin cartel, Escobar imported exotic species to his private zoo, called Napoles.
Police killed Escobar in 1993, and the zoo was transferred to the state. Among its residents are 22 hippos, officials say.
The hippo hunt has angered some.
Nestor Verala, technical director of the Matecana zoo in Pereira, said that killing an animal "seems bad to me."
But Luis Alfonso Escobar, director of Antioquia office in charge of ordering the hunt, said officials were obliged to take the measure "before the animals ended up killing someone."