August 2016 – VENEZUELA – Venezuelans suffering from hunger and shortages in their struggling country broke into Caracas zoo and pulled a black stallion from its pen, butchering it for the meat. The crime occurred late last month, in the small hours of the morning at Caracas’ Caricuao Zoo. A gang of people sneaked into the state-run park under the cover of darkness and seized the horse – the only one of its kind in the zoo. The animal was then led to a secluded area and butchered on the spot.
Zookeepers arriving for duty the next morning, on July 25, found only its head and ribs left behind in a pile. Dalila Puglia, an environmental prosecutor, has been commissioned by the government to investigate. But the horse was not the first zoo animal to suffer the effects of Venezuela’s crippling food shortages. Vietnamese pigs and sheep were reportedly stolen from the same zoo earlier in July. Earlier this month Marlene Sifontes, a union leader for employees of state parks agency Inparques, which oversees zoos, said that 50 animals in the zoo had starved to death over the last six months.
She said the animals included Vietnamese pigs, tapirs, rabbits and birds – some of which had not eaten for two weeks. 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. Outside the capital, the situation is worse. In La Laguna, a park in the western state of Tachira, administrators said they had to seek donations from local businesses to get fruit, vegetables and meat for the animals. “We are doing all that is humanly possible to ensure the zoo continues to function,” said Oslander Montoya, an accountant for the local municipality which handles funding for the zoo.
Three animals died in May at a zoo in Paraguana, on the northwestern Falcon peninsula, the director said. Staff there are planning to move a dozen animals, including vulnerable spectacled bears, to another park in the Andean state of Merida. The zoo’s six bears are currently eating just half of their required 35 lb of food every day. President Nicolas Maduro is struggling to hold his country together, amid looting, riots and shortages of food and medicine. His three-year tenure has been marked by a severe deterioration in the country’s economy, with triple-digit inflation, a collapse of the local currency on the black market and severe recession. The 53-year-old president blames the country’s crisis on an economic war waged by the opposition and Washington.
On Friday, Maduro raised the country’s minimum wage 50 per cent, making it equal to $23 a month at the black market exchange rate. Thousands of Venezuelans streamed across the border with Colombia on the weekend to buy to buy food and other basics as the two countries’ borders were officially reopened after being closed by Venezuela a year ago. He is currently attempting to fend off attempts to hold a recall referendum. A poll earlier this week by local polling firm Datanalisis showed that more than three-quarters of those surveyed disapproved of Mr Maduro’s tenure, while 93.6 per cent saw the country’s situation negatively. Only 22.1 per cent believed that Maduro should finish his term, due to end in early 2019. The opposition have called for massive rallies in Caracas on September 1. –The Telegraph