Lions, Tigers, and Starvation! Oh My!
August 9, 2016
In several places around the globe, where social and economic norms are stresses, wildlife rapidly takes a back seat. Recently, in Venezuela, there have been many issues all revolving around the decline in oil prices. As Venezuela is an oil exporting nation, the losses in national revenue has led to the nation not being able to pay for food. Its citizens have resorted to hunting dogs, cats, and larger birds in order to feed themselves. If people are going to these lengths to feed themselves, can the population take care of the animals it once adored in its zoos?
The answer: No. Around 50 zoo animals have died in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas in 2016 due to starvation or malnutrition. When the zoo could not afford to feed the animals their natural diets they had to substitute with other foods. While humans and other omnivores may be able to handle this well, many animals have evolved to be dependent on specific diets. When animals stray from their normal diets, the effects can be dire. Issues that can arise from short term diet substitutions include digestive issues and neurological difficulties. Long term complications can be severe malnutrition and death.
Venezuela isn’t the only place in the world that is suffering from social discord, however. In the Gaza Strip, fighting between Palestinians and Israelis has commonly prevented workers from caring for animals at the Khan Younis zoo (Potentially shocking photos of animals are on this site). The civil war in Yemen has also had dire consequences on the inhabitants of the Taiz Zoo. In both of these places violence between humans has led to animals being neglected. While any zookeeper would be unhappy to see their animals dying, in these cases, there isn’t much that they can do. Looking forward and back the best strategy is to make partnerships with other zoos and organizations n the event that a crisis occurs. These partnerships can help assure that the animals are properly fed and taken care of. In the more extreme situations the zoos can take steps relocate the animals, be it temporarily or permanently, to more socio-politically and economically stable regions.