Posts Tagged ‘zoos’


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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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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