Venezuela is a facing an extreme economic crisis and human beings aren’t the only ones affected by it. An African elephant has become the latest symbol for the dire need of food in the country.
The 46-year-old malnourished elephant named Ruperta in the Caricuao Zoo is seen standing with her skin sagging around her bony structure. Venezuelans have kicked off a food drive to save the mammal, which apparently has been living on squash for many days, resulting in dehydration and diarrhea.
According to Román Camacho, a local reporter who initially brought Ruperta’s case into the limelight, the elephant had collapsed last week due to hunger and weakness. When images of her spread online, many people rushed to the zoo with food donations but were turned away.
“Workers are not allowed to receive donations, because while there are people with good feelings, there are others with bad intentions,” said zoo officials in a statement. But for some bizarre reason, they even refused cash donations that people put forward for the animals’ food.
The government is also trying to cover up Ruperta’s struggle by saying its sickness is due to a stomach ailment, and that she is supposed to be on a specific diet.
“Ruperta the elephant is in stable condition and under the permanent care of experts,” Venezuela’s National Institute of Parks said.
But, none of these excuses are appealing to people around the world, especially Venezuelans who are experiencing the same conditions personally. In a country where people have no choice but to starve, it is hard to believe that an animal in a zoo is being fed well and looked after.
Ruperta the elephant is a tragic symbol of the cruel incompetence of the Maduro regime in Venezuela. People are starving, she must die pic.twitter.com/NkzQmXHcn2— Willie Colón (@williecolon) March 27, 2017
@ParisJackson you do know that Venezuela can't even feed its own people let alone a single elephant— Zaddy???? (@IsidoroMendezz) March 28, 2017
Unfortunately, whenever a country is going through a crisis, it is animals that suffer the most. Since they can’t express themselves, and are absolutely helpless in the situation, the creatures are often neglected and left to the mercy of zookeepers or officials.
“Although the government refuses to accept it, Ruperta is not a unique case in Caricuao Zoo that is suffering from this condition, and this zoo is not the only one in the country,” said the country’s Environment Ministry in a statement.
Ruperta is not the first animal in a Venezuelan zoo to fall victim to malnutrition. Around 50 birds, rabbits, pigs and tapirs perished of hunger over a span of six months at a Caracas zoo in 2016. The story of these animals is a metaphor for Venezuelans suffering in general.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Thomas Mukoya