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Colombia - ARAs and Invasive Hippos

DORADAL, Colombia -- Even in Colombia, a country known for its paramilitary death squads, this hunting party stood out: more than a dozen soldiers from an army battalion, two Porsche salesmen armed with long-range rifles and a taxidermist.

They stalked Pepe through the backlands of Colombia for three days in June before executing him with shots to his head and heart. But the group suddenly found itself on the defensive.

The operation to hunt Pepe -- a hippopotamus who escaped from his birthplace near the pleasure palace built by drug lord Pablo Escobar -- became the focus of a fierce debate over animal rights and the containment of invasive species in a country struggling with four decades of civil war.

Escobar was gunned down on a Medell -- on rooftop in 1993, but Colombia is still wrestling with the mess he made, such as importing exotic animals -- including hippos, giraffes and kangaroos -- for his ranch.

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