Cocaine Hippos and Mafia Parrots: How Drug Lords Saved the Planet

“When the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar was shot dead in 1993, the Colombian government took control of his luxurious estate in northwestern Colombia, including his personal zoo. Most of the animals were shipped away, but the four hippopotamuses—of which Escobar was especially fond—were left to fend for themselves in a pond.”—National Geographic

May 11, 2398

It’s hard to believe that four hundred years ago there were 8.7 million species of animals on Earth. After the Great Extinction Event, we thought that only two remained: tuna and labradoodles. But we have recently discovered eight other species, long believed lost, alive and thriving in unexpected places.

How did they escape extinction? A handful of eco-warriors of the Millennial Age, with incredible wealth and foresight, kept these animals safe in their private zoos and homes. At the time, they were mocked and reviled, even seen as criminals. All right, they were actually criminals. But now we can thank them for preserving the biodiversity of our planet.


London White Alligator
The white alligators that surfaced in London’s Thames River are descendants of Vishnu and Brian, two exceedingly rare albino specimens kept by the crime boss Dominic (An Unmarried Woman) Dukas. Legend has it that the pair enjoyed their very own, all-white penthouse at the Dorchester, and were known to order “kayakers” via room service.


Mafia Parrot
A flock of tough-ass birds discovered in the Traiano area of Naples can be traced back to African gray parrots owned by Salvatore Patriarca, head of the Iommi-Gnocchi clan. They were trained to answer the phone with “I’m gonna kill you.” When brought in as witnesses against their boss, they repeated “Who do we gotta blow to get outta this place?” until a mistrial was declared.


Hot-Tub Cobra
In the nineteen-nineties, the Northern California marijuana kingpin Jeff (The Therapist) McGrath introduced a pair of Egyptian black desert cobras to his estate, where they quickly and inexplicably turned aquatic. McGrath allowed them to proliferate in his twenty-person redwood hot tub, claiming that they were “just chilling out” and that he had no right to tamper with nature.


Spine-Eating Eagle
A descendant of the Philippine eagle, this species was brought to Moscow by Boris (Sixteen Candles) Kuznetsov, of the Balabanov crime organization. Naturally vicious peckers, these birds were bred to use their strong beaks to rip out the spines of law-enforcement agents. They were presumed extinct until one miraculously emerged from Bunker 42—sixty-five metres below the streets of Moscow—blinking and rubbing his eyes.


Stripeless White Tiger
An extended family of stripeless, not-super-smart white tigers found in the Grutas de Cacahuamilpa caves, near Mexico City, are likely the descendants of two relentlessly inbred specimens that once belonged to the cartel leader Jesus (El Baby) de Dios. These progenitors, Uranus and Dayenu, were kept in a lavish underground bunker and fed a steady diet of spring breakers. Their offspring, who are now being cared for in a sanctuary, refuse any meat that is not wearing shorts.


Death-Stalker Peacock
Considered in its day to be the world’s most lethal peafowl, this magnificent creature—prized for its plumage, ferocity, and ear-splitting cry—roamed the grounds of the Las Vegas crime boss Danny (The Sack) Nagel’s mansion. Known to attack their own reflections, these peacocks were trained to punish informers, who were wrapped in Mylar and placed in their midst. The birds were eventually seized by authorities and released in Death Valley, where it was hoped that they would perish.


Minnesota Smuggler Snake
A yellow anaconda was recently discovered under a baggage carrousel at Duluth International Airport. Though we can’t trace him to a specific conservationist, historically, it was not unusual for criminal organizations to use snakes as drug mules—feeding them condoms full of cocaine and watching them slip past airport customs officials without raising suspicion.


Manhattan-Sewer Swan
Swans, considered in their time to be a symbol of beauty, grace, and lasting love, were also brutal, complicated assholes. They could just as easily decapitate a boater as die of a broken heart. They were also great at deterring geese. These qualities, in addition to their white coloring, made them the perfect drug-lord bird. Before his arrest, the crime boss Dmitri (The Exfoliator) Kahn flushed his beloved whooper swans down the toilet, sending them underground into New York City’s sewer system, and saving them from certain extinction.

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