An emaciated lion in a zoo in the Venezuelan state of Zulia. Photo: Christian Veron / Twitter

By Jeanfreddy Gutiérrez Torres
21 May 2018

LAKE MARACAIBO, Venezuela (Mongabay) – The wildlife of Venezuela, one of 17 countries that account for 70 percent of the world’s biodiversity, has come under new pressure in addition to deforestation, toxic oil spills. and illegal trafficking: human starvation.

The economic crisis that began in 2014 with the collapse of the nation’s oil revenues, has now deepened to the point that Venezuela is considered a failed state by some analysts. Poverty currently holds more than 80 percent of the population in its grip, according to studies by four Venezuelan universities.

Many critics place responsibility for the nation’s financial woes on Nicolás Maduro, who won a second term as president on Sunday, amidst international accusations of election fraud, and concerns that Venezuela’s inflation will “hit a stunning 13,000 percent this year. Stores are empty and people sift through garbage for scraps. Many people call the country’s malnutrition the ‘Maduro diet,’ laying blame for the gaunt figures that are common sights now [in the streets] on Mr. Maduro,” reports the New York Times

Although the national government officially denies the severity of the humanitarian emergency here, public services, agricultural productivity and even the commercial transportation network have deteriorated — and as a consequence, so has access to food.

As a result, people are feeding themselves wherever, and on whatever, they can. That has come to include wild animals such as the Guiana dolphin (Sotalia guianensis), locally known as tonina; the Caribbean pink flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber); several threatened sea turtle species; as well as wild donkeys in the Lake Maracaibo estuary, once at the heart of the nation’s oil production.

Likewise, Venezuela’s zoos, which suffer from a lack of vital supplies, and have reported the theft of animals, believed to have been stolen for food.

Few arrests have been made for these environmental crimes, with perpetrators given minor penalties or fines. Three young men who slaughtered a wild donkey, for example, and sold its meat, were sentenced to report to a court every day for 30 days; two others found guilty of hunting 60 protected birds for illegal sale as food were ordered to perform community service. […]

One aspect of Venezuela’s food crisis involves problems at its zoos. An attraction for the country’s urban public and tourists in better times, zoos have in recent years been scenes of horror, as reported by the local press and echoed in international media.

In August 2017, a keeper at Zulia Zoo near Maracaibo reported that animals had attacked each other for lack of food. Other animals were apparently slaughtered by the keepers to feed the facility’s carnivores. Thefts have been rife at the same zoo. Forty animals have been reported stolen, likely to be killed and eaten. Vietnamese pigs, monkeys, macaws and redfish were taken at night. Some robberies involved endangered species including tapirs. Two peccaries, a type of wild pig, were stolen, while buffalo were butchered on site.

Similar stories have been reported from other Venezuelan zoos: Peacocks and other captive birds were the victims of hungry thieves who raided Bararida Zoo in Barquisimeto, 250 kilometers (155 miles) southwest of Caracas. Several men dismembered a horse inside the Caricuao Zoo in Caracas, the capital; tapirs, sheep, and rabbits have also been stolen from there.

While not a case of wildlife abuse, a viral video on YouTube shows people entering a pasture and beating a cow to death.

Investigations have been opened in all of the zoo cases, but no one has been charged. […]

The Maduro government continues to refuse international humanitarian aid or recognize that large numbers of the nation’s people are going hungry. Meanwhile, the United States continues to threaten sanctions, seen by many as unhelpful. Amid all this, the plight of Venezuela’s animals has gone largely overlooked. Raul Julia-Levy, an animal rights activist and actor, is now trying to fund and organize an animal airlift from the country’s zoos.

“The situation with all the lions and the tigers is something that is beyond reason, and so beyond anything you might think is possible,” he told the Miami Herald in March. “I can’t imagine a place in the world where they let the animals suffer so much.” [more]

Venezuela’s hungry hunt wildlife, zoo animals, as economic crisis grows


  1. Anonymous said...

    It's stupid to pretend to prosecute people for food when they are starving to death. Venezuela should start feeding these animals their politicians (those that are carnivorous of course). The "crisis" is manufactured - and supported by the United States which is seeking to break Venezuela, so we should also feed their animals OUR politicians and actors involved in keeping Venezuela destitute.

    The whole failed "oil state" claims don't fly with me. Gas is over $5 a gallon now in New York city. Venezuela is being ostracized and left to die (easier and much cheaper then a military takeover) which is the goal of the United States. We could help them - but we won't. Not until we get what we want - which is oil.

    Nationalizing the oil production basically guaranteed that Venezuela would go through this. Kicking out greedy capitalist - and they'll kick you back.

    What would be best is for South America countries to step in and help fix Venezuela - without US influence or "help" (ignore our demands and efforts to muscle in). There's definitely a market for their oil at prices that are sufficient to sustain the country, as long as we get the United States out of the way. And then the people can be helped. But the U.S. doesn't want that and is willing to see them starve and "blame" only Venezuela for this crime. It's not true.  


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