Zoo animals in Venezuela have become the latest victims of the country’s descent into economic oblivion.
Venezuelan authorities are investigating the disappearance of more than 10 species of animals from the Zulia Metropolitan Zoological Park in the city of Maracaibo. Police believe the animals were likely stolen to be resold as meat for starving Venezuelans, who for months have faced crippling food shortages under country’s ruling socialist government.
Two collared peccaries, which are similar to boars, were stolen over the weekend, reports the Guardian. They were the most recent in a series of thefts that includes two tapirs and a buffalo, which was taken from the zoo and cut up for meat.
“What we presume is that they (were taken) with the intention of eating them,” Luis Morales, an official for the Zulia division of the National Police, told reporters on Tuesday.
Venezuela’s once-wealthy economy is in the midst of an ongoing collapse under the watch of socialist President Nicolas Maduro. A complex web of price controls, import restrictions, and currency manipulation has led to shortages of basic life necessities, including food and medical supplies. (RELATED: Bad Old Days: Venezuela Slides To Civil War As Trump Ratchets Up Pressure)
Humanitarian groups now say Venezuela is suffering from a full-blown malnutrition crisis. Sixty-three percent of families in “at risk” areas have resorted to eating “unusual foods,” and 44 percent reported going a whole day without eating anything at all, according to a survey by nutrition expert and Venezuela native Susana Raffalli.
Maduro blames the food shortages on widespread civil unrest and an “economic war” led by right-wing opposition groups and conspirators in Washington.