Chavista Mismanagement Kills Animals at Barquisimeto Zoo

The death of two spider monkeys at Barquisimeto Zoo because of possible negligence provokes a swift PR move by the governor of Lara State and the questionable arrest of a veterinarian.

Photo: Rosénder Evíes

Even Venezuelan zoos haven’t been spared by the ongoing crisis: Last February, the Maracaibo Metropolitan Zoo made headlines around the world after reports broke out that animals were so malnourished that the weakest ones were sacrificed to feed the others.

Just now, a similar case has occurred in Barquisimeto, with two spider monkeys dying after going four days without food (only water). According to zoo worker Neris Suarez, other animals are in serious risk as well, and the quantity and quality of the food are declining. “We just got 53 kg of waste that’s not food. It’s what you give to pigs.”

In an unrelated incident, a white tiger died in May at the same zoo, during mating.

Things have forced Lara governor (and former Admiral) Carmen Melendez to make a visit at the Bararida Zoo and Botanical Park, where she pledged to fix all the problems…

…and then, one of the main veterinarians at the zoo was arrested. Carlos Silva, who’s in charge of preventive medicine and nutrition (with 13 years of experience at the park), was taken to a military facility on July 13 for questioning, and presented in court the next day. According to reports, he was detained without a warrant by the National Guard.

Locals condemned his arrest, from human rights and environmental protection groups, to his colleagues at the zoo. Silva was freed, but must show up at court every 15 days. That same weekend, Melendez held an open event in Bararida Zoo to celebrate Kids’ Day.

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Photos: Rosénder Evíes

Silva is being charged with “obstruction of justice” and “illegal hunting and fishing” by the Public Ministry. There are conflicting reports about the possible cause of his arrest: either he (allegedly) refused to sign documents about the recent animal deaths, or presented a very damning report about the park situation.

With the case now going to court, questions are being made about Bararida Zoo: An article in Aporrea by former constituyente candidate, Jose Gregorio Infante, blames current management by local apparatchik Junior Mejías (with no previous zoo experience.)

Infante blames current management by local apparatchik Junior Mejías (with no previous zoo experience.)

But the problems didn’t start with Mejías: The shortage of food and the rising costs to keep the animals fed were present in recent years at Bararida Zoo. In September 2016, then director Santos Balsamo admitted a “budgetary crisis”, that seems to be widespread in the nation: the animals of Caricuao Zoo, in Caracas, show signs of malnourishment as well, as Crónica Uno confirmed last month.

Even if I’ve covered similar stories before, the case of Bararida Zoo is special, as it remains an important institution here in Barquisimeto. Putting in charge a politician with no knowledge on the matter is already a case of mishandling, but this is the true meaning of “ecosocialism,” in case you were wondering about chavismo’s true ecological leanings.