Smithsonian Channel Investigates the Escape of Pablo Escobar’s Illicit Exotic Pet Collection in ‘The Hunt for Escobar’s Hippos’

NEW YORK — Notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s brutal regime ended in a hail of bullets. His infamous reign of terror left Colombia with the legacy of a corrupt narco-state and something more bizarre: African hippos. In the 1980s, Escobar smuggled four hippos into Colombia to join his growing collection of exotic animals at his $63 million estate outside Medellin. Left to fend for themselves in the wake of his death, these extremely dangerous beasts – responsible for more deaths in Africa than lions or crocodiles – broke out. Today, breeding at twice their typical rate and with no natural predators keeping them in check, more than 60 roam the Colombian wilds, wreaking havoc in villages at night and threatening the ecosystem that feeds into the Magdalena River, Colombia’s main watershed. This is the extraordinary story told in THE HUNT FOR ESCOBAR’S HIPPOS, premiering on Smithsonian Channel in the U.S and at 9 p.m. ET/PT in Canada.

Surprisingly, Colombians adore their hippos despite the dangers, and it’s illegal to cull them. Left with no other option, Colombian veterinarian Dr. Gina Serna is tasked with capturing and sterilizing them – an operation extremely difficult to perform in the wild of Colombia. The situation of the Colombian hippopotamus is an ecological time bomb that urgently needs to be diffused. As the largest foreign invader in Colombia, these formidable creatures pose not only a serious threat to human life, but also to the country’s wildlife and native ecosystem. Aggressively frontal and territorial, the consequences could be catastrophic.

“This was a story we immediately knew we had to tell,” says executive producer for Smithsonian Channel, Tria Thalman. “Americans know Escobar’s legacy all too well but this invasion of hippos that now threatens Colombia’s wildlife is a remarkable, unexpected twist to the sordid tale of drugs and violence.”

THE HUNT FOR ESCOBAR’S HIPPOS is an AGB Films production in association with Oak Island Films for Smithsonian Channel and Terra Mater Factual Studios. Executive producers Phil Fairclough and Ted Oakes join Sabine Holzer and Susanne Lummer from Terra Mater Factual Studios and Tria Thalman and David Royle who serve as executive producers for Smithsonian Channel.