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hippos
BY GRACE WADE
IN 1981, NOTORIOUS drug lord Pablo Escobar imported four hippos from
Africa to his estate near
Medellin, Colombia. Af nativetr ter his death in 1993, the herd meandered into the nearby Magdalena River. valuable role-
Ecologists estimate there arenow 65 to 80 swimming around, and that number
'could reach 800 by 2050.
Introducing new species often causes environmen- tal michans Thade mieaeed
paths
Ata whopping 3,500 pounds each, hippos' bodies are able to create trails through shallow rivers, altering flow. This forms streamlike waterways where
generally more resilient than
'one with fewer species.
hungry hungry.
hi
on shrubs
height
BY GRACE WADE ILLUSTRATION BY JACQUELINE OAKLEY
to eat crop-loving beetles took over Australia, andivy" brought to the New World' for decoration has toppled native trees. But someecol- ogists think these hippos may have happened upon
valuable role: 100,000 years ago, semiaquatic hoofed mammals roamed
South America, and Eseo- by bar's petsmay be filling the new niche they left behind. Here are four ways tthey're shap-
A similar, unconfirmed effect, may be at play in Colombia."
In Africa, these ungulates' hefty appetites keep grass heightin check, spurring new growth, Fresh sprouts are lower in fiber and higher in
small fish can hide from preda- _nutrients like nitrogen, making tors. Their survival supports _ them the perfect snack for a diverse ecosystem, which is smaller grazers like vieuna
COLOMBIA
+ Hacienda Nipoles
(Pablr Eredar Extnta)
around
'Hippopotamuses expel waste while wading, and their poop provides a feast for aquatie
'microorganisms-and in turn boost for the fish that eat them.
But invasive animals never come without complications;
'waste can also prompt algae blooms that drop oxygen levels,
'The hooves of these chunky beasts dredge up sediment along waterbeds, resuspend- ing organic matter that algae living close to the surface can feed on. All this stomping also forms small, deep pools where fish can find shelter
during the dry season when
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