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Ecuador: Residents Mourn the Death of Chelito the Giraffe

Ecuador is well-known for its biodiversity and boasts many species of interesting plants and animals. However, there is one beloved animal that is not native to the country, and residents of Loja are mourning its recent death. A giraffe named “Chelito” was found dead near his pen in the Loja zoo, where he had been living since 2003. One of the region's most recognizable tourist attractions, Chelito was the only giraffe in Ecuador and was proud symbol for residents of all ages. See here for a tourism poster designed by Sur Ecuador [es].

The cause of death is still unknown pending the results of an autopsy, but many are speculating that he may have been poisoned. Others are blaming poor zookeeping and conditions within the zoo. Regardless of the cause, many Loja residents are sad and some local bloggers remember their experiences at the zoo.

Photo by Nelson Piedra and used with permission.

Angel Gualán has fond memories of the animal [es]:

Todos vamos extrañar su gran amabilidad para recibir a los turista que tenia este animal, hace algunos meses atrás fue mi ultima visita a su morada, era muy amigable siempre se acercaba para que le den un poco de alimento y dejarse acariciar tranquilamente.

We are all going to miss the animal's friendliness towards tourists, a few months ago during my last trip to see him, he was very friendly and he always came close so that others could feed him and easily pet him.

An ex-pat blogger at Dispatches from the Equator also saw the appeal of Chelito:

When I first came to Loja for my site visit in the beginning of September I was told I had to go to the local zoo and see the giraffe. The giraffe, Chelito, was like a celebrity in town, the only giraffe in Ecuador and perhaps the only animal non-native to Ecuador on display. I did go and see all the children and adults hanging around outside its fence feeding it grass and leaves, very content spending time with their favorite town animal. Here the zoo only costs about 25 cents so regular visits to see Chelito were very feasible for everyone.

Blame for the death cannot be placed until the results have returned, but Sur Ecuador [es] accepts some of the blame.

Es muy tarde para establecer culpables por su muerte, pero creo que todos tuvimos un grano de culpa, por no reclamar una compañera para su jaula, por no tomar mayores precauciones en su cuidado, por dar por sentado que estaba bien, por solo tenerlo como un ícono turístico para tomarnos fotos y realmente no realizar una campaña para su bienestar.

It is too late to establish blame for his death, but I think we all have some share in the blame, for not pushing for a mate for his pen, for not taking larger precautions for his care, for thinking that he was fine, for only having him as a touristic symbol to take photos and not truly taking part in a campaign for his well-being.

Following the animal's death, residents took to the streets of Loja calling on the local government to provide better care of the animals in the zoo. Voces Lojanas [es] writes about the diverse support from those who took part in the march:

Pancartas, globos anaranjados y amarillos, figuras de cartón, niños vestidos con disfraces de jirafa, camisetas con mensajes relacionados al motivo de la marcha recorrieron las pricnipales de la ciudad en una multitud que cubría fácilmente las cuatro cuadras. Los mensajes que se leían fueron: “Cuidemos el zoológico”, “Respeto a los animales”, “Salvemos el zoológico” y “Devuelvan a Chelito”.

Signs, yellow and orange balloons, cardboard cut-outs, children dressed in giraffe costumes, shirts with the march's message all walked through the principal city streets that easily took up four blocks. The messages were strong: “Let's Take Care of the Zoo,” “Respect the animals,” “Let's Save the Zoo,” and “Give Chelito Back.”

Even though a giraffe like Chelito seems out of place in a South American country, it was still a big part of life in Loja. Yet, Café de Chucho [es] who is also lamenting the loss wonders, “Why would a small town even want a giraffe?

11 comments

  • I am a physiologist and biochemist who has lived in South Afrika and took care of giraffes and elephants both in Johanesburg and in Artis (the Amsterdam Dutch zoo). I have been in the USA for the last 35 years but my dream is to retire to/in Ecuador. One of my missions (besides starting a bed & breakfast!) is to introduce giraffes and elephants to Ecuador and allow them to BREED and live there in peace. Animals should NEVER be fed by the public. They should ALWAYS have a companion. They need a LOT of space. TOYS to play with. A STREAM OF WATER is very important as well as a few very large, strong trees for rubbing against. They need constant veterinary care to check for fungus and parasites. Keeping animals in HARD WORK and takes dedication and money. If Loja (and Ecuador) is willing to sacrifice some money we can go back to Africa for the two giraffes and go to India for the two elephants. WE CAN DO THIS.
    Another thing that would help is to CLEAN THE AIR and get rid of the combustion gasoline sucking car engine. Why not use the AIR CAR that is being made in France?
    http://www.popularmechanics.com/automotive/new_cars/4251491.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_car
    http://zeropollutionmotors.us/
    Dr. Van Beveren

  • Bendito! RIP chelito.

  • Awe can’t we lead off with a happy story?

  • Recently the elephant died in Guatemalan zoo. It born captive and lived the whole time on a reduced space. I dislike Zoos but I have mixed fillings on it, many memories,

    When I was a child I used to go there with my grandpa, he said that we couldn´t afford to go to Africa, so the kind Elephant, “Mocosita”, was visiting us instead to tell us stories of the oldest continent, “Home” of all species.

  • Why would anyone want to poison a cute giraffe? It’s sad that Ecuador lost its only giraffe, but I’m not a big fan of having animals in zoos…

    RIP Chelito.

  • [EN] Ecuador: Los residentes lloran la muerte de la jirafa "Chelito"…

    Un post de GVO en inglés acerca de la reciente muerte de la única jirafa macho en cautiverio en el Ecuador….

  • Sad development. This is an important animal. Should have been well taken care of. I hope lessons have been learnt from this incident.

  • This are very sad news for Loja. I have visited this city many times in the past and I think that Loja is one of the most beautiful cities of Ecuador because of the kindness of its people, the wonderful weather and fantastic landscapes.

    Zuri

  • […] Ecuador is well-known for its biodiversity and boasts many species of interesting plants and animals. However, there is one beloved animal that is not native to the country, and residents of Loja are mourning its recent death. A giraffe named “Chelito” was found dead near his pen in the Loja zoo. One of the region’s most recognizable tourist attractions, Chelito was the only giraffe in Ecuador and was proud symbol for residents of all ages. [link] […]

  • […] ( o ni siquiera lo saben) de la oferta que el Dr. Van Beveren propusiese en un comentario escrito aquí, luego de enterarse de tan lamentable […]

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