Pablo Escobar's Cocaine Hippos Are Now Legally Recognized as People in the U.S.


Although legal experts say the ruling won't have much effect in Colombia, animal rights activists called it profound.

In a new legal ruling, it was determined that Pablo Escobar’s cocaine hippos can now be recognized as “interested persons” and will have legal rights in the U.S.

The federal case was brought against the Colombian government about whether to kill or sterilize the hippos that are still reproducing at a fast rate. The order reportedly won’t carry much weight where the hippos reside, which is in Colombia, according to CBS News.

"The ruling has no impact in Colombia because they only have an impact within their own territories. It will be the Colombian authorities who decide what to do with the hippos and not the American ones," said Camilo Burbano Cifuentes, a criminal law professor at the Universidad Externado de Colombia.

Escobar brought one male and three females to Colombia from a private zoo in the 1980s and they have multiplied. Some scientists have previously called for the animals to be culled as they now have made their home in the Magdalena river basin, 100 miles from Medellin, but many aren’t in agreement with that action.

Scientists have argued that they hippos’ presence threatens biodiversity and leads to deadly encounters with humans.

Last week, scientists announced that they are working on sterilizing the hippos by shooting them with the birth control GonaCon, and 24 out of 80 hippos had already been treated with the method.

In the recent suit, attorneys for the Animal Legal Defense Fund asked the U.S. District Court in Cincinnati to give "interested persons" status to the animals so that two wildlife experts in sterilization from Ohio could be deposed in the case, CBS News reported.

The request was granted on Oct. 15.

Christopher Berry, the lead attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, called the ruling “profound,” although narrow.

"This really is part of a bigger movement of advocating that animals' interest be represented in court," he said. "We're not asking to make up a new law. We're just asking that animals have the ability to enforce the rights that have already been given to them."

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