Pablo Escobar is a prominent character for several reasons and one of those reasons is being the wealthiest criminal in human history. On the other hand, he had a potent desire to own exotic and non-native animals to roam about his estate in Colombia. Soon after this drug kingpin had been legally brought down, the animals on his grounds were taken in by various zoos. However, 4 of Escobar’s hippos ran wild and repopulated over 80 beasts. Many people considered these creatures to be giant pests.
Escobar’s hippos have been of interest to new research who think that the concept might be quite suitable in current conditions. The ancient period of ‘Hemiauchenia paradoxa’ witnessed llama-like critters roaming around the same region almost 100,000 years back during the latter part of the Pleistocene era. The animals interacted with the surrounding environment that was not native to them.
Towards the end of that period, there were widespread extinctions. Some of the largest creatures of the world vanished from the face of the planet and our ecosystems had been permanently altered since then.
This gives rise to a significant question related to ‘invasion’ that might prove beneficial to fill the conspicuous gap left behind by extinct species.
Can Escobar’s Hippos Save Humankind?
A recent study has been published in PNAS which makes a comparative analysis between the characteristics of ancient fauna and the newly introduced equivalents. This study argues that species that have migrated far away from their native habitats might favorably fill the ecological gaps created by extinct animals. For instance, camels found in Australia and the presence of feral horses across America are successful examples of Escobar’s hippos.
John Rowan, a paleontologist from Massachusetts University, Amherst, has informed, that a llama and a hippo might seem very different from each other, particularly related to their influence on the ecosystem. Nonetheless, they are quite similar in their weight, food preference, and digestion process.
Water buffalos are ecologically akin to huge armadillos from past eras based on their rapid populating abilities. The reason most people get shocked and demand the immediate oust of non-native animals is mainly that they are not accustomed to seeing unusual animals and seem reluctant to embrace Escobar’s hippos. Although the outright rejection seems appropriate for some animals like the ravaging lionfish off the US east coast.
Rowan claims that invasive species might not roam around freely in terms of evolution but ecologically they might fit sometimes. He aggressively dismissed the question of legitimization regarding the presence and application of Escobar’s hippos that are alike to extinct animals.
Experimenting With New Ecosystem May Be The Answer
Erick Lundgren, a Ph.D. student and study author at Sydney’s Technology University, introduced the concept of a new ecosystem that is unfamiliar to the history of the world. Most of Escobar’s hippos have proven to be successful apart from a few invasive species.
He further emphasized the beneficial role of water buffaloes in decreasing wildfires and increasing tree growth. Additionally, hippo’s excreta on appropriate soil might act as fishery fertilizer.
However numerous other invasive animals have an adverse ecological impact like lionfish, sane toads, and pythons. Accurate predators will be ideal to keep such populations under control. Typically jaguars and wolves might pleasurably prey upon invasive hippos or feral horses but their number is rapidly dwindling.
Moreover, these studies have been unable to find answers to the ecological impact of several massive animals from the Late Pleistocene including mastodons and wooly mammoths. They could transform forestlands into savannahs. Finding their replacements to create novel ecosystems has failed so far.
The most important aspect of this study is to re-evaluate concepts of invasive animals by keeping the larger picture in mind. Hence, we must start considering Escobar’s hippos as cosplaying for native ancient creatures and might become useful replacements for new ecosystems.