A US court has recognized Escobar’s lawyered-up hippos as people.
In a first, a US court has recognized animals as legal persons, specifically the descendants of Pablo Escobar’s hippopotamuses, which have thrived in Colombia since the drug lord’s death nearly 30 years ago.
The decision came after the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a request to enable two specialists in nonsurgical wildlife sterilization to testify in support of a Colombian lawsuit to stop a cull.
Last Thursday, magistrate Judge Karen Litkovitz of a federal court in Ohio granted the plaintiffs’ motion, the “Community of Hippopotamuses Living in the Magdalena River.”
The decision was based on a US provision that allows a “interested party” in a foreign lawsuit to request depositions in the United States to assist their case.
“The court regarded the hippos as legal persons with respect to that statute in allowing the application,” ALDF stated in a statement.
The district court ruling, according to Christopher Berry, ALDF’s managing attorney, “will aid the hippos in their litigation not to die — that’s the immediate impact of it.”
He went on to say, “More broadly speaking, it’s the first concrete example of a US court enabling animals to exercise a legal right in their own name.”
Attorney Luis Domingo Gomez Maldonado filed the action on behalf of the hippos last July in Colombia, which recognizes legal personhood for animals.
Its goal is to prevent the government from euthanizing the creatures, which have grown in number from Escobar’s original acquisition of a single male and three females to around 100.
The cocaine baron imported exotic animals for his ranch, including flamingos, giraffes, zebras, and kangaroos, before being shot by police in 1993.
Except for the hippopotamuses, all of the animals were sold to zoos after his death.
The semiaquatic ungulates were allowed to roam Escobar’s Hacienda Napoles estate and procreate. They are currently thought to be the world’s largest hippopotamus “bloat” outside of Africa.
This has had negative implications for the local ecology, as well as reports of local fisherman being attacked.
While the lawsuit is underway, authorities announced on October 15 that they had started sterilizing the pod using the contraceptive medicine GonaCon, which was delivered by dart guns, as well as surgical sterilization.
According to the lawsuit, it’s unclear if the Colombian government would utilize the medicine safely or whether it still plans to kill any of the animals.
It wants to give hippos a contraceptive called PZP (porcine zona pellucida), which has been used effectively in zoos and is recommended. The Washington Newsday Brief News is a daily newspaper published in Washington, D.C.