Valderrama, whose job until recently included watching over the hippos in the Magdalena, has seen animals up to 155 miles away from Hacienda Napoles. Fishermen are terrified of the three-tonne herbivores, he says. At night, the animals roam the countryside, wandering into ranches, eating crops and occasionally crushing small cows.
Colombian people, he believes, are more vulnerable than Africans because they see hippos as cuddly, "floppy" animals. The respected El Colombiano newspaper recently reported that children in a school near Hacienda Napoles are sharing a pond with the animals, and having direct contact with hippo calves at home. [...]
Hildebrand has another, more radical solution: "I think they should barbecue them and eat them." The animal is said to have tasted similar to pork.
Valderrama doesn't recommend eating the meat, in case it is infected with a transmittable disease - one dead hippo was found to be carrying leptospirosis which can cause meningitis - but he does see the complete elimination of male hippos as the most practical solution.
This was also the view of international experts from the World Wildlife Fund and the Disney Foundation, who visited Colombia in 2010 - they described the hippo situation as a "time bomb". But Echeverri can see how this story would play internationally, and wants to avoid it.
Escobar's hippos are doing well: