In the wake the groundbreaking exhibition, We Are Nature, museum educators increasingly recognize opportunities for existing exhibits to foster discussions of profound human impacts. Because of a recent research study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, even these sturdy plastic components of the African Wildlife Play Table (above) can spark wide ranging discussions about the impacts of large animal relocations.
The research paper Introduced herbivores restore Late Pleistocene ecological functions, by ecologist Erick Lundgren (University of Technology, Sydney, Australia) and ten co-authors, documents the establishment and growth of a hippo population along a section of Columbia’s Magdalena River over the past three decades. The founding members of a population now estimated to include as many as 80 individuals were four hippos, three females and one male, acquired during the 1980s by notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar for a private zoo on his estate.
According to researchers, the population of Magdalena River hippos could grow to between 800 and 5,000 animals by the year 2050.
For a summary of the research and its implications by The New York Times science writer Asher Elbein, please visit “Pablo Escobar’s Hippos Fill a Hole Left Since Ice Age Extinctions.”
Patrick McShea works in the Education and Visitor Experience department of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working at the museum.