Why are animals in Venezuelan zoos starving to death?

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Street monkey with monkey baby on the back looking for food.

Image: Shutterstock/Vectortone

As the current economic crisis lags on in Venezuela, creating a mounting desperation, humans waiting in grocery lines for hours, facing shortages of essential goods and enduring ongoing difficulties with the plummeting value of the Venezuelan dollar, aren’t the only ones in misery these days. At least fifty animals have starved to death since February in the Caricuao Zoo, ranging from birds to pigs, porcupines, tapirs and rabbits, many having gone hungry for two entire weeks prior.

While lions and elephants are currently being fed tropical fruits and pumpkin in the absence of traditionally supplied raw meat, other large wildcats are being fed slaughtered horses from a nearby race track, some residents view the situation at the zoo as “a metaphor for Venezuelan suffering,” such as in the words of Marlene Sifontes, union leader for INPARQUES (National Parks Institute) employees. People are just as hungry as the zoo creatures in some cases, hunting stray dogs, pigeons and even neighborhood cats for food—proving that animals aren’t safe outside the zoo in the current economic climate either.

Other World Zoos Face Similar Crises

Other zoos like one in the Paraguana Peninsula area of Venezuela where three animals died in May, are attempting to relocate their animals to another zoo not facing such an emergency several hundred miles away. Donations are being sought from businesses in some regions, asking people to give what they can of fruits, meat or vegetables for the cash-strapped zoos.

Some animal welfare groups are getting involved, and others are in contact globally. In other parts of the world, similar situations are ongoing. In Gaza, for example, Four Paws animal protection agency of the U.S. is raising money to have a zoo closed under similar circumstances. The Taiz Zoo in southwestern Yemen faces similar challenges as well.

Gail A’Brunzo of the International Fund for Animal Welfare has stated, “It all comes down to organizational management; if the zoo is in imminent financial crisis, they need to take steps to provide for these animals. Ailing zoos should reach out to partner zoos or organizations that might be able to help, she adds. “This does not appear to be a short-term thing.”

But how did the situation get so dire?

There are as many theories as there are tragedies going on in the country of Venezuela. From some who blame the oil price plunge to those who trace poor government back to the 1970s to still more who think the United States had it in for the demise of current Venezuelan President Maduro since Hugo Chavez went into the hospital with cancer, no one can give an easy answer. But one thing is for sure—there is no end in sight for either human or beast.

Kristen lives in the Michiana area, where she enjoys lake-effect weather, apple orchards and occasional South Shore rides into Chicago. She can probably tell you more about apple cider vinegar than you'd ever want to know. You can reach her at:

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