Latin America & Caribbean

Animals go hungry in Venezuela zoos due to shortages

A lion sleeps inside a cage at the Caricuao Zoo in Caracas, Venezuela July 12, 2016. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The big carnivores at the Caricuao Zoo in Caracas are reported to be on reduced meat rations.

About 50 animals in one of Venezuela's main zoos are reported to have died of hunger over the last six months because of chronic food shortages.

A union leader for employees in the state parks, Marlene Sifontes, told Reuters news agency some had spent two weeks without food before they died.

She said lions and tigers in the zoo in Caracas were fed mango and pumpkin to make up their meat rations.

Government officials have denied the deaths were due to a lack of food.

In other cities zoos are reported to be in a worse situation, forced to ask for donations of fruit, vegetables and meat from local businesses.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Some of the animals at the Caracas zoo are reported not to have eaten for weeks.
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The director of a zoo in the city of Paraguana says three animals died at the zoo in May.
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption An employee gives vitamins with a syringe to a capuchin monkey at the Paraguana zoo
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption An employee walks with tapirs at the Paraguana zoo.
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Paraguana zoo says its six bears are eating half their required 16 kilos (35.2 lb) of food every day

Marlene Sifontes, union leader for employees of the state park agency, Inparques, said: "The story of the animals at Caricuao is a metaphor for Venezuelan suffering."

Venezuela is in the grip of a severe economic crisis which has led to food shortages and periodic looting.

President Nicolas Maduro blames the country's problems on what he says is an "economic war" waged by businessmen and government opponents.

His opponents blame the crisis on economic mismanagement by the government and a heavy reliance on oil, which has dropped in price.

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