Page last updated at 04:41 GMT, Saturday, 11 July 2009 05:41 UK

Colombia kills drug baron hippo

Two hippos on the former estate of drug baron Pablo Escobar, Colombia (21 June 2009)
Officials said it was only a matter of time before the hippos hurt someone

Colombian bounty hunters have shot and killed one of three hippopotamuses which escaped from a private zoo owned by former drugs baron Pablo Escobar.

The African-born hippos broke out of the zoo, called Napoles, in 2006 and thrived in the nearby Magdalena valley.

But officials said they were a threat to people and crops, and that all three would have to be destroyed.

Escobar, once one of the world's richest men, was shot dead by police in the city of Medellin in 1993.

He had amassed a collection of hundreds of exotic animals at his large ranch near the city of Medellin.

The ranch was transferred to state ownership after his death and remains home to about two dozen hippos.

On Friday, Colombian television broadcast pictures of the carcass of the fully grown male hippo, surrounded by hunters and soldiers.

The animal, which locals say was respectively the mate and father of the two hippos still on the loose, was reported to have been shot dead last month in the Antioquia province.

Animal charities have reacted angrily to the killing.

"They could have been captured and kept in a safe place until a permanent refuge was found for them," said Marcela Ramirez of the local Animal Protection Network group.

But Environment Minister Carlos Costa said it was "only a question of time before those animals hurt someone.

"After more than two years of trying to capture them, the decision [to kill them] was a sound one," he said.

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