Posts Tagged ‘Nature’


Venezuela’s plains region is home to the capybara (in Spanish, chigüire), which is the world’s largest rodent. These herbivores can weigh up to 100 pounds and live most of their lives in water. When they are born, they actually swim better than they walk, according to a zookeeper in Parque del Este in Caracas.

Sadly, chigüires are sometimes hunted and eaten for Easter dinner despite the fact that, during Lent, there is a religious prohibition against eating meat. During the time of colonization, the native chigüire was misrepresented to the Catholic church by the Spanish conquistadors, who wrote to the church officials for permission to eat the animal, which was unknown in Europe. The Spaniards said that chigüis lived in the water and resembled fish, conveniently leaving the hair and four feet out of the description.

By and large, chigüires are friends, not food, and people in the llanos keep them as pets. Recently,  the chigüire has become a subject for popular art, and can be found on t-shirts and logos everywhere in Venezuela.

Spanish-speakers will enjoy a popular sytirical news blog in Venezuela known as El Chigüire Bipolar.


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Venezuela is the nation with the 10th-largest amount of biodiversity in the world. Efforts to protect that biodiversity are highlighted in a new study by RAISG, or La Red Amazónica de Información Socioambiental Georreferenciada.

According to the study, Venezuela has the second-highest proportion of its Amazon region protected. The Amazonian basin covers an astounding 3 million square miles in South America, overlapping several different countries and encompassing a population of perhaps 33 million. Venezuela has already protected 71.5% of its share — second only to Ecuador’s 79.7%, and far ahead of Colombia, Brazil, and Peru.

RAISG measured Indigenous territory and other protected lands, which are generally the best conserved. Venezuela has 43 national parks. A respect for nature is enshrined in the constitution of Venezuela under a chapter that guarantees all citizens the right to a safe and healthy environment.

Since the Amazon Rainforest is often called the “lungs” of South America, we can breathe a little easier thanks to Venezuela.

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S. Schaefer

Hey science fans! Did you know that Venezuela is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world? You can find animals there that live nowhere else.

Ichthyologists Francisco Provenzano from Universidad Central de Venezuela and Scott Schaefer of the American Museum of Natural History have found a previously unknown species of climbing catfish. Lithogenes wahari appears to be an evolutionary marvel.

One fish was discovered in a remote region of Venezuela’s Amazonas state nearly 20 years ago, but good and plentiful specimens weren’t found until recently. The catfish was eventually found in large numbers in the Cuao River, a tributary of the Orinoco.

The fish are bony and armored, have a “specialized pelvic fin” and a “grasping mouth” that allow them to climb onto rocks in a locomotion similar to that of an inchworm. Lithogenes wahari evolved to adapt to rapidly changing water levels in the Venezuelan Amazon.

Check out these links from Live Science to learn more.

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The world’s first Census of Marine Life is making a splash, and it is doing so with some help from Venezuela.

The census is an enormous effort to take stock of the past, present, and future of marine life with the participation of seventy nations over the course of ten years. The fourth progress report on its findings was given yesterday in Valencia, Spain.

Patricia Miloslavich, Professor of Marine Biology at the Universidad Simón Bolívar in Caracas, is co-Senior Scientist and coordinator for the areas of the Caribbean and Coastal South America.

Professor Miloslavich is also the curator of the mollusk collection at the Museo de Ciencias Naturales of the Universidad Simón Bolívar.

Miloslavich is quoted in a BBC article on the Census of Marine Life. She points out that the study could help contribute to knowledge about the effects of global warming: “Over the past few years, there has been huge public interest in biodiversity because there is a legitimate concern about the changes being caused by humans.”

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Patty Boyd is the latest star to align herself with Venezuela.

In an interview, the former girlfriend of George Harrison and Eric Clapton told the Orlando Sun-Sentinel that Venezuela is her favorite place to visit of anywhere in the world.

“It’s gorgeous — the ever-changing terrain, mountains, valleys, vast waterfalls, rain forests, jungles and flat endless plains,” Boyd says.

She also remarks, “I found Venezuelans to be happy and charming people.”

It’s true — Venezuela is worth visiting for charm of its citizens as much as for its natural beauties. If you want ideas for where to go in Venezuela, visit our Travel Section.

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For those with an interest in the wild world of big cats and other critters, two news stories from this week will surely delight.

First off, archaeologists have discovered the only known remains of the long-extinct scimictar cat (of the saber-toothed tiger family) on the South American continent. Fossils of 6 of the big cats dating back 1.8 million years were found alongside those of panthers, wolves, camels (!), condors, ducks and horses.

Any guesses as to how these archaeological gems were unearthed? Yep, while digging for oil! Employees of the state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) came across them while prospecting in Monagas State.

Researcher Ascanio Rincon of the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Investigation told AFP, “It’s South America’s most important discovery in 60 years.”

Now, to bring our story up to the present day, Venezuelan zookeepers are looking forward to a little help from their counterparts in Cuba. The Cubans will send animals to Venezuela in exchange for medical equipment as part of an ongoing barter between the countries. Some 10 specimens are under negotiation, including a six-month old giraffe named “Evo” in honor of Bolivia’s President Evo Morales. Reuters has the scoop.

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Venezuela’s most-visited national park turns 50 this year!

Parque Nacional El Avila is just outside of Caracas, encompassing the steep, forested mountains that stand between the capital city and the aquamarine waters of the Caribbean. Hiking on the more than 100 miles of trails that criss-cross El Avila is a common Sunday ritual for many residents of Caracas, who take in breathtaking vistas of the landscape and the city below.

Alternately, visitors can take the teleferico (the cable car seen here) to the top, which stands 7,000 feet above the city. Here, there are refreshments resting spots, including an ice skating rink and the famous Hotel Humboldt.

El Avila was decreed a national park on December 12th, 1958. This year, to mark the anniversary of its founding, events are taking place throughout the year. To read more in Spanish, click here.

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