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By Kira Krall
This past week, more reports have surfaced that animals are being stolen from Venezuelan zoos and butchered for their meat. Officials link the thefts with Venezuela’s recent economic downturn.
The current Venezuelan economic crisis emerged as a result of Hugo Chavez’s efforts to spread the wealth from the extreme upper class to the increasingly impoverished lower class. However, the government spent too much money on welfare programs, abandoned farming in favor of the oil business, and cut ties with countries that lent Venezuela billions of dollars. This model continued until worldwide oil supplies increased and worldwide demand decreased, cutting the price of Venezuelan oil from $100 USD per barrel to $50.
The halving of Venezuela’s economy means they can’t afford to import food or medicine, and the long-abandoned commercial farms cannot meet the country’s demands. In a recent study, 85 percent of households in at-risk areas said they have significantly reduced overall food intake, with 44 percent of households going 24-hour periods without eating anything at all.
So many starving citizens means that Venezuela is having trouble keeping up with the demands of zoos and aquariums. At least 53 animals in captivity have starved this year. The animals that are getting food are being served a diet drastically different from their natural one.
The zoo animals are facing another threat: domestic poaching. There have been multiple reports of people stealing and butchering animals such as horses, buffalo, and globally threatened tapirs. Police have made the assumption that the meat was directly consumed by the thieves themselves or was sold to starving communities.
It’s all too common for zoo animals to suffer as a result of socioeconomic status. As of right now, individual facilities are looking to move their animals to zoos that can provide for their needs, but no international organizations have stepped up to assist in the animal’s relocation. Hopefully Venezuela’s animals can get the care they need despite the country’s crisis.
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