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Zoo animals 'starve to death in Venezuela' due to food shortages

The Independent The Independent 29/07/2016 Caroline Mortimer

© The Independent Some 50 animals have starved to death at one of Venezuela’s major zoos as the chronic food shortages continue, a union leader has said.

The animals have all died within the last six months - while many animals, including Vietnamese pigs, tapirs, rabbits and birds, at the Caricuao zoo in Caracas have not eaten for two weeks.

Marlene Sifontes, 52, the union leader responsible for employees at the state parks agency, Inparques, said more animals were at risk across the country.

In La Laguna, a park in the western state of Tachira, local administrators are seeking donations from local business to feed their animals.

image © The Independent image "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.

The plight of the animals mirrors the crisis facing most Venezuelans who are now routinely skipping meals or waiting hours in lines for the dwindling food supplies in supermarkets.

Crowds chant “We want food” as they queue for hours due to chronic inflation and economic mismanagement by the government under Nicolas Maduro.

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

Mr Maduro, who took over from President Hugo Chavez after his death in 2013, blamed the country’s collapse on an “economic war” waged by local opposition leaders and the US.

But critics say a heavy reliance on oil prices to subsidise unsustainably generous welfare schemes is to blame.

Many have now resorted to travelling over the border with Colombia to buy basic supplies.

Anxious staff are currently feeding mangoes and pumpkin to lions and tigers at the zoo to make up for reduced meat rations and elephants are being fed with tropical fruit rather than their usual diet of hay.

State prosecutors have reportedly opened an investigation into the deaths of “various species of wildlife” at the zoo.

The zoo has declined to comment.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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