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Potential ecological and socio-economic effects of a novel megaherbivore introduction: the hippopotamus in Colombia

  • Amanda L. Subalusky (a1), Elizabeth P. Anderson (a2), Germán Jiménez (a3), David M. Post (a1), David Echeverri Lopez (a4), Sebastián García-R. (a5), Laura J. Nova León (a3), Juan F. Reátiga Parrish (a3), Ana Rojas (a2), Sergio Solari (a6) and Luz F. Jiménez-Segura (a6)...

Abstract

Introduced species can have strong ecological, social and economic effects on their non-native environment. Introductions of megafaunal species are rare and may contribute to rewilding efforts, but they may also have pronounced socio-ecological effects because of their scale of influence. A recent introduction of the hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius into Colombia is a novel introduction of a megaherbivore onto a new continent, and raises questions about the future dynamics of the socio-ecological system into which it has been introduced. Here we synthesize current knowledge about the Colombian hippopotamus population, review the literature on the species to predict potential ecological and socio-economic effects of this introduction, and make recommendations for future study. Hippopotamuses can have high population growth rates (7–11%) and, on the current trajectory, we predict there could be 400–800 individuals in Colombia by 2050. The hippopotamus is an ecosystem engineer that can have profound effects on terrestrial and aquatic environments and could therefore affect the native biodiversity of the Magdalena River basin. Hippopotamuses are also aggressive and may pose a threat to the many inhabitants of the region who rely upon the Magdalena River for their livelihoods, although the species could provide economic benefits through tourism. Further research is needed to quantify the current and future size and distribution of this hippopotamus population and to predict the likely ecological, social and economic effects. This knowledge must be balanced with consideration of social and cultural concerns to develop appropriate management strategies for this novel introduction.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

(Corresponding author) E-mail asubalusky@ufl.edu

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Also at: Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York, USA

Also at: Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia

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References

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Keywords

Potential ecological and socio-economic effects of a novel megaherbivore introduction: the hippopotamus in Colombia

  • Amanda L. Subalusky (a1), Elizabeth P. Anderson (a2), Germán Jiménez (a3), David M. Post (a1), David Echeverri Lopez (a4), Sebastián García-R. (a5), Laura J. Nova León (a3), Juan F. Reátiga Parrish (a3), Ana Rojas (a2), Sergio Solari (a6) and Luz F. Jiménez-Segura (a6)...

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