Colombia in search of ‘cocaine hippos’

Written by Staff Writer Colombia has begun genetically testing hippos in an effort to reduce the size of its notoriously “cocaine hippos” populations. The hippos are characterized by their lanky body proportions and slow…

Colombia in search of 'cocaine hippos'

Written by Staff Writer

Colombia has begun genetically testing hippos in an effort to reduce the size of its notoriously “cocaine hippos” populations.

The hippos are characterized by their lanky body proportions and slow swimming speeds — making them ideal carriers of the drug, which is typically snorted or smoked and is traded in the country’s waters.

The Zumzum River in Colombia. AFP/Getty Images

Researchers in Peru have previously been tasked with working with Colombian authorities to cull populations of the hippos due to their role in cocaine production.

The Natural History Museum, in Colombia’s second largest city Medellin, is using the same sort of genetic testing — called bromadiolone sequencing — developed for drugs like cocaine, a large body of which is kept in its collections.

The cocaine hippo might have reached its limit

“We use this technology for: searching for a different DNA profile of anything that we might have here in the display,” said Sandra Drury in a Scientific and Technological Magazine report.

An analysis by the museum found that in the Zumzum River a type of hippo population, which is referred to as “cocaine hippos,” is not expanding. The “cocaine hippos” population, therefore, is clearly no longer expanding.

Shown here in Medellin, Colombia, most animals in the zoo were born there. AFP/Getty Images

Although anyone taking a crack at putting the dolphins, chimpanzees and orangutans of Medellin on contraception might have problems with the technique, scientists have been using it successfully to reduce the illegal slaughter of elephants.

A pregnant elephant in Vietnam is receiving IVF treatment in an attempt to give her calf a longer life. AFP/Getty Images

Drury and others hope that drugs such as ovarianic acid could be used to halt the growth of all hippos in Colombia. This could reduce the risk of the animals being used in production, or even be used as the source of livestock feed.

An elephant has her ovaries implanted with gametes. AFP/Getty Images

Another option that could be a success is IVF, although it carries the disadvantage of the need to have IVF treatment for not one, but up to three animals.

As for more long-term ideas, there is one great hope: an “ecological human” project which seeks to discover ways to breed genetically edited human offspring that would not be susceptible to diseases — potentially helping to maintain a healthier population of the endangered animals in the process.

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