Venezuela's woes spread to zoos as animals feed on each other

2018-03-01 14:01
Picture released by Panorama newspaper showing a starving cougar in its cage at the Metropolitan Zoo in Maracaibo, Zulia State, Venezuela, on February 14, 2018. (Miguel ROMERO / PANORAMA / AFP)

Picture released by Panorama newspaper showing a starving cougar in its cage at the Metropolitan Zoo in Maracaibo, Zulia State, Venezuela, on February 14, 2018. (Miguel ROMERO / PANORAMA / AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Caracas - The situation in economically depressed Venezuela is so dire, workers at one zoo are slaughtering animals to feed others - with two emaciated pumas poster kids of sorts for the distressing state of affairs.

The zoo - located in the town of San Francisco in Zulia state - closed down this month after horrific pictures surfaced showing starving animals.

The list of malnourished creatures includes a lion, a Bengal tiger, a jaguar and several birds of prey, zoo staffers told AFP recently.

Ducks, pigs and goats have been sacrificed to feed other animals.

The bone-thin pumas were saved from poachers, and photos of them published in the newspaper Panorama have shocked people across this oil-rich country - saddled by hyperinflation and acute food and medicine shortages as a result of lower petroleum prices.

The big cats were skinny when they first arrived at the zoo, but later got better. However, with Venezuela's latest crisis "it is as if they shrank", one zoo worker said.

A male and a female Andean condor, born in captivity and brought to the park as part of a breeding programme to save the endangered species, have gone weeks without being fed properly.

Two birds of prey were so hungry they cannibalised a cage mate, staffers said.

"The Bengal tiger had been the heftiest, and the lion, as it was very old, was skinny but it also lost weight," a staffer said.

To get around the lack of meat, zoo officials started hunting iguanas, which run wild in the zoo, and fishing tilapia from lagoons in the facility.

'Dark age' for zoos

Besides the lack of feed, Zulia's only zoo, on the border with Colombia, has been beset by theft. In 2016, at least 40 animals including a tapir were stolen, presumably by people looking to salvage meat - as Venezuelans are struggling mightily.

The minimum wage, equivalent to $27 a month at the official exchange rate, is barely enough to buy two kilos of meat.

So people are living off rice and tubers like yuca - also known as cassava - according to a study by major Venezuelan universities. It said a staggering 87% of the population was living in poverty last year.

Dirwings Arrieta, the mayor of San Francisco, has announced an overhaul at the zoo including upgrades to the water system and raises for staff - but said nothing about all the hungry animals.

Other zoos are also hurting.

In 2016 at the Caricuao Zoo in Caracas, a horse was killed by assailants who salvaged its flesh to eat. In the state of Falcon, two wild pigs were stolen from a zoo.

Peacocks and other birds have been stolen from Bararida Zoo in Barquisimeto, 250km southwest of Caracas, said Carlos Silva, a veterinarian who has worked there for 13 years.

Citing the situation in Zulia, Mexican actor and philanthropist Raul Julia, who runs a wildlife foundation in California, has offered to help the animals.

Silva said zoos in Venezuela are enduring a "dark age".

"What we have seen in Zulia is something you see in countries at war. All because of politics, of which the animals know nothing."

Read more on:    venezuela  |  animals

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
 

And the Paws24 and Hill's winners are ...

Find out who the winners of our Paws24 pet pics and Q&a competitions are...

 

Paws

Keep your family and pets safe from rabies
5 scientific benefits of owning a cat
Why we love cats
8 great natural remedies for your pet
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.