Venezuela is currently in the middle of a deep economic crisis. Since last year, there have been multiple media reports of zoo animals going hungry in the country, as the crippling economy has slowed food supplies. And now we have another heartbreaking instance to share with you. Pictures of a 46-year-old elephant named Ruperta who is currently at the Caricuao Zoo have taken social media by storm, and we have to warn you – they’re pretty shocking.

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The photos show a full-grown elephant with protruding bones and a severely sunken face. After the photos went viral, Venezuelans launched a food drive to save Ruperta. El Universal reported that Ruperta is suffering from diarrhea and dehydration after zoo officials only had squash to feed her for several days. According to the newspaper, when neighbors tried to bring food to the elephant, zoo officials refused the donations, citing sanitary issues.

The government denied Ruperta is starving, saying that a stomach ailment had caused her to lose weight and required her to be on a restricted diet. But just last year, some 50 animals starved to death at the Caricuao Zoo due to the chronic food shortages, according to a union leader.

The government may deny that Ruperta is starving, but it seems evident that she is emaciated and is in need of medical care ASAP. Sign this urgent petition asking the Caricuao Zoo to relocate Ruperta immediately!

Locals aren’t the only ones concerned for Ruperta. The country’s Environment Ministry released a statement saying, “Elephants could live in the wild until they are 60 years old and around 65 or 70 if they are captive. Ruperta is 46 years old. She is an animal that could be considered to be aging prematurely.”

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Adult elephants in their wild habitat, normally eat between 300-400 pounds of food per day. However, in captivity, zoos admit to only feeding their captive elephants a measly 150 pounds of food per day (largely to stave off obesity that comes with their lack of exercise).  In the wild, an elephant would be grazing and eating a variety of foods all day long. In captivity, an elephant, unfortunately, has to eat whatever it is fed and on a schedule that someone else has made for them. All of which, goes against everything that is natural to an elephant’s instincts.

If you love elephants, don’t visit them at the zoo. Zoos exist primarily for profit and provide little to no benefit to animal conservation – save the zoos that have rehabilitation and release programs or donate profits to outside organizations helping animals in their wild habitat.  Unfortunately, the negatives far outweigh the positives for zoos, and they effectively only promote the idea that animals exist for our entertainment.

The good news is we all have the power to stop this industry. By refusing to purchase tickets, you can help put an end to the captivity industry. Opt to support sanctuaries that offer life-long care to former captive elephants, or organizations that work on protecting our wild and captive elephants instead.

Please sign this urgent petition asking the Caricuao Zoo to relocate Ruperta and give her the life she deserves and forward the petition to your friends and family. She is depending on us to be her voice.

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Image Source: @RcamachoVzla/Twitter

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