Rescue for the Escobar hippos in sight. A US court has recognized animals as legal persons for the first time – more precisely, the descendants of the hippos of the late Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar (1949-1993). The decision of a district court in the state of Ohio “will help the hippos in their process not to die,” said Christopher Berry, of the animal welfare organization Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) on Thursday the AFP news agency. The hippos can now hope for support from the USA in court.
Probably the largest herd of hippos outside of Africa lives in Colombia. The now around 100 animals come from a couple that Escobar kept in a private zoo. After his death in 1993, almost all animals were sold, including giraffes, zebras and kangaroos. Only the hippos stayed and have been reproducing rapidly ever since.
The pachyderms are increasingly causing problems. As an invasive species, they damage the local ecosystem. Attacks on fishermen are also said to have occurred. Several of the animals have therefore already been sterilized. Killing the entire herd is also a constant issue.
25 animals have already been sterilized
The ALDF advocates that two experts for the sterilization of wild animals testify as witnesses in a corresponding procedure in Colombia in order to save the animals from being shot down. In order to achieve this, the animal rights activists turned to the court in Ohio, because there is a law in the United States that US courts can record statements to assist “interested persons” in a foreign litigation.
The district court has now granted “the community of hippos in the Magdalena River” this status of “interested persons”. It is therefore possible that the animals – or their legal representatives – apply for the support of the experts in a US court. “In a broader sense, this is the first concrete example of a US court allowing animals to exercise a right in their own name,” said Berry.
Just last week it became known that 25 hippos had been sterilized. A drug called Gonacon was administered to some of the animals using arrows. It is a contraceptive that works in both males and females. Other hippos were sterilized in the conventional manner. (AFP / jmh)