Although small and little known as a zoo, the Generalísimo Francisco de Miranda park, or Parque del Este, has exhibited since its inauguration in 1961 an attractive collection of fauna in captivity for its conservation and enjoyment by visitors to this extensive and important green recreational area. from the city.
Capuchin monkeys, one of the favorite animals of visitors, especially children due to their games and play, are one of the exhibited species that have lasted the longest in this place. Although these creatures can live up to 25 years of age, according to the Parque del Este veterinary assistant, Sthefanie Vargas, they reproduce easily, keeping the species alive.
A total of 12 of these little capuchin animals play daily in the monkey houses, named in that way because of the color of their fur that looks like the clothing of the Capuchin friars, whose hood is similar in color to the hairs that surround their friendly smilies. The oldest, who is the most identifiable of the litter due to its size - it is the largest - is a 20-year-old male who was christened "Malandro", perhaps because of his ability to snatch objects from people.
Daniel Ramírez, veterinary assistant at the Caricuao Zoo, explains that this type of monkeys needs a dense and humid ecosystem of vegetation to be able to live, and that Caracas does not meet those conditions. “These monkeys can be found anywhere in the world that meets the characteristics of tropical vegetation such as India, Venezuela, the Amazon. What varies between them is the pigmentation of the coat, which depends on their diet and the amount of sun they receive.
In the city we can only enjoy their presence in the Caricuao Zoo freely and in captivity in the Miranda Park.
As for the feeding of these little monkeys, their diet is based on fruits and vegetables. "The monkeys eat all kinds of fruits such as milk, pineapple, blackberry, beet, green beans, chard, bananas," says the keeper of the Parque del Este birds, Juan Pérez.
On this point, the veterinary assistant of the Parque del Este makes a call for attention, who daily has to deal with dozens of visitors, who out of ignorance and to interact with these creatures feed them popcorn, cheestris, bread, cakes or other processed food. "There have been many capuchin monkeys that have gotten sick and even died from eating this type of food," he warns.
And as an example, he comments on what happened to the two nice and playful otters that the park had, Peter and Kalioper, that there was much speculation that the second was euthanized after escaping from its captivity area and biting a visitor. Both died for the same reason, an intestinal obstruction, which according to information from Vargas was due to the processed foods that children and adults threw at them. The authorities decided not to bring more of these species for the exhibition.
Alligators and turtles
Other animals that have been in the park's zoo for a long time, and that are another impressive attraction in the collection, are both the coastal and Orinoco alligators, as well as the babas, the Galapagos tortoises, Terecay and Arrau.
Alligators are perhaps the oldest guests in this place. There are two from the Coast, which are a species of large crocodile: Diana, who is about 30 years old, and Pacú, a male who could be between 40 and 50 years old.
Ramírez explains that the age of alligators can be calculated by their size. And it is that when they leave the egg, these animals, which according to the Red Book of Venezuelan Fauna They are in danger of extinction, they can reach between 25 and 50 centimeters in length, and when growing, the male can reach up to 6 meters, while the female can reach up to 4 meters.
"Being reptiles, they grow until the day they die," says Ramírez. The last time they measured Pacú, ten years ago, he was about 2 meters tall.
Regarding their life expectancy, Ramírez says that there are alligators that can live up to 70 years, but that "everything depends on space and food."
According to records cited by the Red Book of Venezuelan FaunaThese alligators, which are present in Venezuela along the Caribbean coast, from La Guajira to the end of the Paria peninsula, as well as in the Lake Maracaibo basin, are very dangerous animals; and although they have not hurt any worker in the park, unfortunately Diana and Pacú have been injured by unconscious visitors who have thrown stones at them.
The Orinoco alligators Juancha and Pancho are other of the longest-lived crocodile species in the zoo. Both, according to their last measurement made ten years ago, must pass 4 meters in length. Regarding his age, although the records that the park manages are inaccurate, they must be over 40 years old.
This species of crocodile, which is endemic to the Orinoco basin between Colombia and Venezuela, according to Wikipedia , It is considered the largest predator in Latin America, as well as one of the largest, with a maximum length recorded in males of 7 meters with a weight of up to 428 kilograms. The females, meanwhile, can reach 4 meters and weigh up to 211 kilos.
Also, according to Red Book of Venezuelan FaunaLike the alligators of the Coast, they are also in danger.
Unfortunately, Pancho, the male Orinoco alligator, is blind. One of his eyes has a kind of ulcer caused by age, which prevents him from seeing, while the other was seriously affected by a stone thrown by a visitor.
As for the slime, which is six, they are a species of carnivorous reptiles characteristic of Central America and northeastern South America that can measure up to 1,4 meters for females and 2 meters for males. In the Park they have coexisted in their captivity area for decades with the Galapagos, Terecay and Arrau tortoises, endemic animals of our country that are vulnerable and critically endangered.
The felines: the jaguar and the puma
In this zoo you can also enjoy the "tranquility" of the long-lived jaguar called Caroní, who is 19 years old (the life expectancy of these animals is 22 years); and the young 4-year-old puma named Gissel, the park's newest acquisition that was born at the Caricuao Zoo.
Although both felines must share the same home, they are never left together. “One day the jaguar comes out, another day the puma comes out. They both like to go out, but they can't get together and the days are interspersed, ”says Vargas.
“In Venezuela it is more common to find a puma than a jaguar, but it may be by accident, because they are usually quite elusive. A Jaguar is not that elusive, but to find it you have to go deep into the jungle. In states like Yaracuy and Guárico, ranchers kill jaguars that threaten the lives of their cattle. Venezuela is possibly a territory of jaguars, but due to the growth of cities, they have been decreasing, ”says Ramírez.
The fauna collection of the Parque del Este zoo also takes into account the free animals of the city's ecosystem that roam in and around this green space. Macaws, fishing birds, Guaros parrots, guacharacas, sloths and squirrels are some of the specimens that visitors can find in their natural habitat. The park is also a resting place at 6:00 am and 6:00 pm for birds that roam the city.
However, in the park they have also opted to keep as guests some free animals that are not part of the Caracas ecosystem, such as domestic ducks. A few years ago a flock was enjoyed for a time that roamed freely through the lakes very close to people, but it did not last long.
Ramírez explains that “although the duck is very territorial and spreads very well in its spaces”, in the Miranda Park “it is not in complete isolation because people get very close to it, and the ducks do not feel the security that they will not go to do something to their chicks, and that makes their reproduction difficult ”, causing their gradual disappearance.
Although they are healthy, ducks will always need peace of mind to reproduce, in addition to having a very short life expectancy.
“They are animals that serve as food for other animals. They are of short longevity, but of good proliferation. But if they are not comfortable enough to place the clutches, the old generation dies and there is no one to relieve them and generational spaces begin to exist. And they are either only males or only females. Also the loose dogs that enter the park, visitors who take them away. There are many things that limit. What happened in the park, "he says.
However, the Park Coordination has once again committed to adding these species to the collection of free animals, bringing from the Portuguesa state a group of domestic ducks to reproduce and have a flock of these birds return to the lakes of the Park.
In the aviary there is still an important collection of fruit and carnivorous birds representative of the country, although it has been reduced over the years. In groups or in pairs, in these cages we can find different species such as guaro parrots, macaws, parrots, guacharacas, paujíes, zamuro kings, caricatures, owls, among others.
Many of the parrots and macaws that have passed through these cages, Vargas points out, have been donated by people who had them at home and who could no longer care for them; and since they are animals that have been in captivity, they cannot be released and are kept on display.
Likewise, in this space of the park there is still the giant cage that housed for many years the famous Harpy Eagle called Morena, who died in 2015 at 45 years of age; and that according to Pérez, whose father worked as a bird keeper for 43 years, she had been brought from La Guaira.
The Harpy Eagle was dissected and is on display at the Caracas Science Museum.
“Harpy eagles are native to the Amazon, but their movement can cover the entire national territory with short breaks in some states. They are too big animals that need prey the size of a capuchin monkey ”, says Ramírez, which can measure up to 56 cm in length.
The birds are fed by Pérez every day. Their diet is based on fruits and seeds that the park zoo acquires every 15 days, while raptors make it from horse meat.
The feeding and care of the carnivorous species in the collection seems to be a resolved issue, an agreement with the racecourse provides them with the meat of the dying horses, and in addition the necessary resources are regularly allocated to the purchase of fruits and seeds for the rest of the fauna exhibited. The park veterinary assistant sometimes has to deal with some visitors who try to feed their trinkets to the birds, thinking that they are being fed.