Not long ago, anyone who arrived to the remote village of Tarazá, in Antioquia (Northwestern Colombia), would immediately think of Africa. Giraffes, jaguars, leopards and exotic birds were loose as if it were a safari. The small group of wild animals were owned by former paramilitary leader Ramiro '
Cuco' Vanoy, extradited to the United States, who wanted to copy the eccentricities of Pablo Escobar and his ranch Naples, in Puerto Triunfo, Antioquia, where he had a real zoo. And like the giant tortoises, zebras, buffaloes, hippos and flamingos of the head of the Medellin cartel, who died of starvation when Escobar was gunned down, today some of the animals of the Caucana region have disappeared, have died or have been shut in conventional zoos.
The authorities are literally beginning to get worried because the phenomenon is spreading to more regions. Only a week ago the environmental police of Cali (Western Colombia) seized two African ostriches that were being illegally moved from Pereira to Jamundí. It is believed that these birds, like a puma that roamed Cali’s Country Club, belong to drug dealers, who apparently are fascinated by the beasts.
Three years ago the policeman Eliécer Zorrilla nearly fainted when he faced a lion and three colorful macaws in a luxurious house in Ciudad Jardín neighborhood, in Cali. In the same neighborhood, the Environmental Corporation of Valle (CVC in Spanish) responded to the complaint about an alligator that had been thrown into a lake nearby. It was known later that the reptile left from one of the Rodriguez Orejuela’s mansions.
As if this were not enough, two jaguars and a puma were found in a farm near Lake Calima. "Apparently the owner had to flee and left them behind," explained the official of the CVC.
The fascination with wild animals is often a way for these gangsters to show their power, because for them this is a form of accessing to what no one else can get.
The felines are drug dealers’ favorite pets. Last October, the Colombian drug dealer Harold Mauricio Poveda, alias 'Conejo', was captured in Mexico. In his mansion two African lions lived right next to him, together with a Siberian tiger and two panthers. Even more serious is the case of the animals that are loose and prowl around villages, like a tiger that has scared the inhabitants of the North of Valle (Western Colombia), and is believed to belong to one of the lieutenants of alias ‘Rasguño'.
What is no longer a danger is the lion of former paramilitary leader Carlos Mario Jiménez, alias ‘Macaco ', seized two months ago by the police on a farm in Caceres, Antioquia. It was found in really poor conditions: skinny, ill and lethargic, it remained in a small cell. The lion didn’t even react when the cell was opened. His mane reminds of ‘Rumbero', a lion which made history in Armenia, because a group of assassins of that city used to put him in their black window truck and take him to their parties to get him drunk with whiskey and liquor. Today 'Rumbero' is at Villa Lorena, a shelter for old animals in Cali.
'Macaco’s' lion had better luck. The only lion at the Santa Fe zoo in Medellin died of cancer last year. There was an available space for the king of the jungle, as there’s only a three million peso monthly budget to feed him. Today the lion is in a larger and cleaner cell, surrounded by other animals that look with jealousy at him every time he eats his eight pounds of meat a day. Like in the old days, when he was in the grip of 'Macaco'. Semana International delivers news about Colombia in English. Find more in our home.