The situation in economically depressed Venezuela is so dire, workers at one zoo are slaughtering animals to feed others — with two emaciated pumas poster kids of sorts for the distressing state of affairs.
The zoo — located in the town of San Francisco in Zulia state — closed down this month after horrific pictures surfaced showing starving animals.
The list of malnourished creatures includes a lion, a Bengal tiger, a jaguar and several birds of prey, zoo staffers told AFP recently.
Ducks, pigs and goats have been sacrificed to feed other animals.
The bone-thin pumas were saved from poachers, and photos of them published in the newspaper Panorama have shocked people across this oil-rich country — saddled by hyperinflation and acute food and medicine shortages as a result of lower petroleum prices.
The big cats were skinny when they first arrived at the zoo, but later got better. However, with Venezuela’s latest crisis “it is as if they shrank,” one zoo worker said.
A male and a female Andean condor, born in captivity and brought to the park as part of a breeding program to save the endangered species, have gone weeks without being fed properly.
Two birds of prey were so hungry they cannibalized a cage mate, staffers said.
“The Bengal tiger had been the heftiest, and the lion, as it was very old, was skinny but it also lost weight,” a staffer said.
To get around the lack of meat, zoo officials started hunting iguanas, which run wild in the zoo, and fishing tilapia from lagoons in the facility.