The sad tale of Felipe the ocelot

The Leopardus pardalis, better known as ocelot or cunaguaro
Leopardus pardalis, better known as ocelot or cunaguaro

The ocelot (commonly known around here as cunaguaro) is a wild cat that can be found on Central and South America. It’s considered to be an endangered species and some of them are now found in places like El Pinar Zoo in Caracas.

On the morning of January 27th, there were reports on the press mentioning that one ocelot named “Felipe” was attacked on its cell and two of its paws were mutilated. I must warn you that the linked images are upsetting.

Authorities started an investigation right away. Even if the motive has not be uncovered so far, the possible use of the paws for santeria ceremonies is mentioned as a possibility. Days after the incident, El Pinar Zoo Director Nataly Trujillo accused private media outlets of exploiting the case for publicity. Why the sudden outburst? Maybe because of the current state of its infrastructure.

This is not an isolated case of animal mishandling: Last October, an elephant named “Lucky” died in Maracay Zoo and workers blamed the lack of resources as the reason behind it. In 2011, four Amazon river dolphins (better known as tonina) died in the Valencia Aquarium and the enviroment where they were kept was far from ideal.

Experts have called for the improvement of Venezuelan zoos and the Enviroment Ministry have commited itself to recover all existing premised and build new ones if neccessary. There is already an agreement in place with Cuba on the matter but as last year’s footage of the lions kept in Camagüey Zoo shows, perhaps we should reconsider that deal…

At least, there are good news about Felipe’s recovery: It’s eating well and jumping again.

Addendum: Daniel Lansberg touches upon the mutilated ocelot in an excellent post about Santería on Foreign Policy’s Transitions blog. The money quote:

Santeria has long been a part of Venezuelan life, and for many years it has been unremarkable to see santeros, clad head-to-toe in white, carrying beads or small statuary and congregating together. For all that, though, the specific practices involved have long been kept underground. Yet what was once an embarrassing family secret to folks like my friend has recently become more mainstream under the Chávez Regime. Nowadays, even high profile Venezuelan role models like Major League Baseball’s 2012 Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, can be unabashed about their side occupations as babalawos. In some circles the practices have grown so in vogue that ordinary Venezuelans pay thousands of dollars for the honor of being trained and inducted in its rites.

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  1. How about the man who killed his mother because “God told him to do it because it would help heal el Presidente”? Geez – truly crazy stuff going on!

  2. No one in the Chavista government seems to understand that whether you put a person in a jail cell or an animal in a cage, you are responsible for their well-being. I hope the ocelot can recover quickly. Venezuela may never recover.

  3. I followed the link and watched the video of the lions in the Cuban Zoo – PATHETIC! If I was a politician, I would be totally embarrassed of such a situation.

  4. Did the poor thing survived? And another thing, why doesn’t the Zoo had some type of security system? I’m not saying something super technological, but maybe two vigilantes or something? Did those beasts simply walked to the animal and cut its front legs?

    • 1. Yes, Felipe survived and it’s getting better.
      2. It should have some guards or something, but no one saw anything.
      3. Most likely.

  5. I know it doesn’t add much to the core of the post, but Leopardus pardalis is not endangered (EN).
    Its global classification on the red lists is least concern (LC), whereas in Venezuela (national red list) is considered vulnerable (VU).
    If used as a generic term, endangered should not be confused with the red list category endangered (EN), which is above least concern, and vulnerable.

      • Yes.
        The Ocelot can be endangered in the US, where its range is restricted to a couple of states. This doesn’t mean is endangered everywhere else.
        The red lists are divided into global and national chapters. Since you were talking about an Ocelot in Venezuela, I didn’t expect you to be using the red list’s classification of the US to say it was endangered. A very superfluous point, but a point nonetheless.
        The ocelot can be found from southern US to northern Argentina, and guess where is abundant the most? The Amazon rainforest. Population densities are very good there, which means we can expect long-term viable populations.
        As I said, in Venezuela, the small cat is vulnerable (VU). Which is worrying enough.
        Here you can find the IUCN global status of the species on the Red List:

  6. Oh my dog!! Seriously? Why is it that no one is fighting against having animals in a zoo, period? These animals, no matter what they are, have NO business being entrapped in these situations. Period.

  7. Ok. Let’s stop crying like kids.
    Does anybody in the US can find out whether is possible to use surgery and prostheses for Rafael?
    We can rise money in the blog to take him wherever necessary to have him recovered.
    I’m being serious. Let’s work this out.


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