Venezuela food shortages leave zoo animals hungry

Wed Jul 27, 2016 7:10pm EDT
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By Daniel Kai

CARACAS (Reuters) - Some 50 animals have starved to death in the last six months at one of Venezuela's main zoos, according to a union leader, due to chronic food shortages that have plagued the crisis-stricken South American nation.

The fatalities at the Caricuao zoo in Caracas include Vietnamese pigs, tapirs, rabbits and birds - some of whom had not eaten for two weeks, according to Marlene Sifontes, 52, a union leader for employees of state parks agency Inparques which oversees zoos.

Other animals are at risk across the country.

Their troubles mirror those of Venezuelans who routinely skip meals or spend hours in supermarket lines, at times chanting "We want food!" or even looting, amid an unprecedented economic downturn in the OPEC nation.

"The story of the animals at Caricuao is a metaphor for Venezuelan suffering," said Sifontes.

Authorities have not given numbers, but state prosecutors have opened an investigation into the deaths of "various species of wildlife" at the zoo.

Currently, lions and tigers at the Caracas zoo are being fed mango and pumpkin by anxious staff to make up for reduced rations of meat, while an elephant is eating tropical fruit instead of its usual diet of hay, the union leader said.

The zoo's management declined comment.   Continued...

A lion sleeps inside a cage at the Caricuao Zoo in Caracas, Venezuela July 12, 2016.  REUTERS/Carlos Jasso