Zoo Animals Stolen and Eaten During Venezuela Food Shortage

Because of the ongoing economic crisis and resulting food shortages in Venezuela, millions of hungry people are searching for something to eat wherever they can find it, including trash cans and dumpsters. Famished children have passed out in classrooms. In June, more than 400 people were arrested when they looted stores for food.

The current situation is so dire that the vast majority of Venezuelans – 93 percent – can’t afford to buy enough food, according to a recent study.

The food shortage crisis is believed to be the reason why thieves have been breaking into zoos and stealing animals. Last year a black stallion was butchered at the Caricuao Zoo in Caracas. Vietnamese pigs and sheep were also taken from the zoo.

This month, at the Zulia Metropolitan Zoological Park in Maracaibo, two collared peccaries, which are similar to boars, disappeared overnight.

“What we presume is that they (were taken) with the intention of eating them,” Luis Morales, a National Police official, said at a press conference last week, according to Reuters.

Ten different species have been taken from that zoo, including two tapirs, which are similar to pigs and listed as vulnerable.

Leonardo Nunez, head of the Zulia Metropolitan Zoological Park, believes the culprits aren’t starving thieves but drug dealers who sell the stolen animals on the thriving black market. “They take everything here! The animals weren’t stolen to be eaten,” he told Reuters.

Regardless of why they’re being stolen, the situation for zoo animals in Venezuela is bleak – even for the ones that haven’t been taken and killed. Because of the lack of food available, many zoo animals aren’t being fed. At least 50 starved to death last year at the Caricuao Zoo. Instead of meat, the staff is feeding mangoes and pumpkins to the lions and tigers.

Earlier this year, heartbreaking photos of the zoo’s emaciated 46-year-old African elephant, Ruperta, made news headlines. When concerned Venezuelans brought what little food they had to the zoo for Ruperta, they were turned away “for sanitary reasons.” Venezuela’s National Institute of Parks issued a statement saying Ruperta wasn’t starving, but was suffering from a stomach ailment.

In May 2016, three animals at a zoo in Paraguana starved to death. The staff planned to move some of the animals, including six vulnerable spectacled bears that could only be fed half of their required diet, to another zoo.

Yet the corrupt Venezuelan government denies that zoo animals are starving and insists they are being treated like family.

President Nicolas Maduro has blamed the food shortage on an economic war started by his opponents and the United States. Last year he turned down offers of humanitarian donations from the U.S. and other countries that wanted to help.

What can be done to help this terrible situation? Earlier this month, Donald Trump told reporters the United States “has many options for Venezuela, including a possible military option if necessary.”

This is clearly not a reasonable solution. Countries including Argentina, Mexico and Peru denounced Trump’s threat, saying it was against United Nation principles and would only serve to further destabilize Venezuela.

As Argentina said in response to Trump, only dialogue and diplomacy can lead to democracy in Venezuela. It’s a long shot, but here’s hoping a conversation starts very soon. In the meantime, please join more than 246,000 supporters who have signed this petition urging Ruperta the African elephant to be sent to a sanctuary.

Photo credit: JakeWilliamHeckey

184 comments

Kimberly W
Kimberly Wallaceabout a month ago

TY

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill1 months ago

This is what you get with socialism. Hungry people will eat anything when there is no food.

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One Heart i
One Heart inc1 months ago

thanks!!!

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Amanda M
Amanda M2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Amanda M
Amanda M2 months ago

sad

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Ellie M
Ellie M2 months ago

ty

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Kathryn I
Kathryn I2 months ago

Petition signed. Barbaric and Unacceptable!

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Melanie St. Germaine

It is sad. Where is the humanitarian aid?

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Amanda M
Amanda M3 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Amanda M
Amanda M3 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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