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Wednesday, 6 September, 2000, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Experts sink teeth into goat-sucker
Goat-sucker stories have been  terrifying Central Americans for centuries
Goat-sucker stories have circulated for centuries
By Central American correspondent Peter Greste

For centuries, Central Americans have spoken of a mysterious and terrible vampire-like creature that roams the countryside, slaying livestock by sucking out their blood.

The chupacabra creatures are said to attack their victims at night, leaving a trail of carcasses with their throats torn out.

These remains are said to be of a chupacabra
These remains are said to be of a chupacabra
Despite the stories, and many people's unshakeable belief in the chupacabras, nobody has ever been able to find any material evidence - until now.

A farmer in Nicaragua claims to have shot and killed one of the creatures as it attacked his own flock of goats.

The farmer Jose Luis Talavera described how he staked out his ranch one night after at least 70 sheep and goats had been drained of blood and saw two chupacabras among the flock.

"We shot at them in the distance," he said.

map of area
"We hit one and wounded it, but they both ran away before we could catch them."

He described the creature as having the naked skin of a bat, and a head like a bull, with a crocodile-like crest running down its neck.

Evidence

Mr Talavera said he later found the decaying skeleton in the mouth of a cave near his farm outside Malpaisillo, a rural town about 45 kilometres north-west of Managua, and handed it over to the local authorities for examination.

Now, zoologists like Edmundo Torres, of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua. have given their verdict.

"It's a dog, without any room for doubt," he said.

"This is a common dog. There are no fangs or anything that could suck blood," according to another university official, Dr Carlos Alberto Gomez.


This is a common dog - there are no fangs or anything that could suck blood

Dr Carlos Alberto Gomez
The explanation has not satisfied Mr Talavera, though.

"The animal that was discovered in that rural zone was different from a mere dog," he insisted.

"Its teeth were rose-coloured and it reared up on its hind legs to suck the blood from at least 120 sheep."

Omen

Others in the region too have spoken darkly of what the coming of the chupacabra means.

One protestant preacher Francisco Ortiz said the creature was a "wake-up call" heralding the end of the world.


Its a signal to men and women that we're going home to God

Francisco Ortiz
"The light is yellow, but it could change to red at any moment," he said.

"Its a signal to men and women that we're going home to God."

However, a local feminist group that has been encouraging women to raise their own sheep to win financial independence had its own theory.

The group suggested that a Nicaraguan patriarchy unleashed the creature to hold on to power.

Anthropologists say the legend of the mysterious chupacabras is centuries old, and spans the length of the Andes and Central America.

Local believers have blamed all manner of ills on the creature, from losses of livestock to bad fortune.

Despite the official verdict about the latest discovery, many are still convinced that the chupacabras are very much alive and very dangerous.

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