CEN/Primer Impacto
CEN/Primer Impacto

Superstitious villagers burned a harmless small mammal that they believed was the mythical chupacabra.


Residents of the village of Coatepeque in the department of Quetzaltenango de in south-western Guatemala filmed themselves burning the body of what they thought was the deadly creature of legend.


The video shows a man proudly holding up the charred corpse.


But what they had actually killed was a kinkajou, a rainforest mammal related to raccoons. They are not endangered but are rarely seen by people because they are only active at night.


Kinkajous are cat-sized animals with the pointed teeth of a carnivore but they mainly eat fruit, acting as ecologically important distributors of seeds.


A villager claimed: "The animal attacked dogs and changed his colour and the size." Another asked: "Why doesn't he bleed? An animal isn't real without blood."


According local media, the animal had attacked people and stolen food. After catching the innocent but unlucky kinkajou, they sprayed it with accelerant before burning it.


Although kinkajous are listed as being of "least concern" on the IUCN red list, a local councillor said that they were endangered and that the villagers faced prosecution for a crime against the environment.


The chupacabra is a recent folklore tale in South America, with the first recorded instance being in 1995. Dozens of farm animals in Puerto Rico were found drained of blood from circular incisions, and a comedian coined the name chupacabra, meaning goat sucker.


The first witness to describe the chupacabra said it was the size of a small bear and with a row of spines along its back, curiously similar to the creature Sil in the movie Species, which the witness had seen a few days beforehand.