In a truly sensational development, the children of the late Pablo Escobar's hippopotamuses have been legally deemed as people by a US court.

Hippos were first imported into Colombia illegally by Escobar in the 1980s during his time at the top of both the international drug trade and Columbian social matters.

However, after his death in 1993 the mud-loving mammals were simply left to their own devices, where they continued to flourish in their new habitat with no natural predators.

In the last eight years, the hippo population of Colombia has risen from 35 to between 65 and 80.

But Pablo Escobar's hippos are now under threat as officials have started sterilising them.

An Animal Legal Defence Fund was filed on behalf of the hippos to a judge in the USA who found that they were deserving of 'interested persons' status.

It is thought that the US ruling will have no influence in Columbia, where the sterilisation of some of the animals has already been done by Colombian officials.

Speaking to CBS News, a criminal law professor at the Universidad Externado de Colombia, Camilo Burbano Cifuentes said: "The ruling has no impact in Colombia because they only have an impact within their own territories. It will be the Colombian authorities who decide what to do with the hippos and not the American ones."

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The life expectancy of a hippo is around 36 years, with adults weighing anywhere from 1,300 to 1,800 kilos.

They have a top land speed of around 20mph and a diet that requires them to eat around 40 kilos of food a day.

So they can be quite challenging animals to manage.

Christopher Berry, the lead attorney of the animal rights group that brought the case to the US court system said: "This really is part of a bigger movement of advocating that animals’ interest be represented in court.

"We’re not asking to make up a new law. We’re just asking that animals have the ability to enforce the rights that have already been given to them."

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