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.