April 15, Michelle Neff

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.

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.

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