Four of Pablo Escobar's hippos escaped and managed to reproduce to a point they are now a threat to wildlife. Photo: AFP via Getty Images.

Pablo Escobar's "cocaine hippos" must be slaughtered to stop them from ruining Colombia's natural habitat, scientists have claimed. According to the Telegraph, the hippos were illegally imported by the notorious drug lord, who was shot dead by authorities in 1993, the Telegraph reports. And it now looks like the wild beasts may face the same fate of their original owner as they have become the largest invasive species on the planet. Hippos pose a threat to wildlife as their urines and faeces are toxic and make other animals, and even humans, sick.

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The animals were part of Escobar's 7,000-acre land, which included his own zoo. When Escobar was killed, most animals relocated, but it is understood that four hippos escaped. There are now between 80 and 100 descendants of his hippos, the paper reports. And with them not having any real predators to fear for, some scientists estimate they could increase to 1,500 by 2024.

Different solutions have been flouted, such as relocating or castrating the animals so they stop reproducing, but there are concerns these may not be enough. According to ecologist Nataly Castelblanco-Martínez, the only solution is to put them down.

“Nobody likes the idea of shooting a hippo, but we have to accept that no other strategy is going to work,” ecologist Nataly Castelblanco-Martínez told the outlet.

David Echeverri Lopez, a government environmentalist, said there is a race to castrate the animals, which "have become a part of the local identity".

Pablo Escobar, who was killed in 1993, brought the hippos to Colombia illegally. Photo:AFP/Getty Images.

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“Relocation might have been possible 30 years ago, when there were only four hippos,” Castelblanco-Martínez told the outlet.

“Castration could also have been effective if officials had provided sufficient resources for the program early on, but a cull is now the only option.”