Image copyright Wikicommons Image caption The mangrove hippos in the nation’s central region are thought to drive out invading crops
Colombia’s Environment Ministry says it is putting on hold a programme to “cocaine hippos” that have been wreaking havoc in the country’s poor central region.
It says that its 12 “super hippos” will now be allowed to breed naturally for the first time in 20 years.
The abandoned farm animals have spread across six states and been blamed for malnutrition among indigenous groups.
A Reuters report of their plight said that they had also been laying waste to plantations.
The mangrove hippos were first found in 1998.
They wandered out of Colombia into Venezuela’s Natuza lake and Brazil’s Paraty, and have been slowly taking over the Amazon basin, according to one of the gorillas who works at the conservation centre where they are kept.
One of them, Ruben, aged 22, became very vocal at the Iguazu National Park, in the state of Rio Negro, when the reserve declared its first hippo birth in about 20 years in 2016.
On Wednesday, the Ecuadoran national veterinary office announced that it was ready to help as Colombia introduced a plan to protect the mangrove hippos from extinction.
According to a release by Colombia’s Environment Ministry, they said in a statement that the “anthropological department is preparing scientific investigations and is working with the World Wildlife Fund”.
“The breeding cycle is now under way, and there will be a six-month research and control period so the animals can reproduce naturally.”
The statement said that this would help assure the fauna’s survival in the Amazonian mangrove ecosystem, as well as “ensuring that the Colombian population’s exclusion from the subsistence food supply is minimised.”
A team of biologists will follow the hippos from summer through to the winter, the ministry said.
The release did not say how many were in the area or if anyone had died during the wild breeding period in 2018, reported Reuters.
However, the Caracol Radio station cited the Iguazu Foundation of biodiversity, as saying that five had died.
“The great concern is that other animals in this zone have a harder time adapting to the effects of this hippo in particular,” Foundation of biodiversity director Alberto Reina said.