A two-year-old perfectly healthy giraffe was killed, skinned and fed to lions at Copenhagen Zoo earlier today (Sunday), causing condemnation around the world.
Despite an online petition signed by over 20,000 people, as well as offers from other zoos to take the giraffe in, and even a private offer to buy the giraffe for half-a-million euros…the Danish zoo decided to go ahead.
The zoo said it was necessary to avoid inbreeding amongst its giraffes, which is in keeping with recommendations by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA).
The event – which was witnessed by children (with their parents’ permission) – has upset thousands of people worldwide, with one South African expat in the USA writing on Facebook:
“What sick people decide it’s ok to kill a perfectly healthy giraffe (called Marius) in a zoo in Copenhagen to prevent inbreeding, skin it in front of an audience, and feed his carcass to the lions? Because his brother giraffe is in same zoo? Maybe I missed something but last I checked, he could be neutered if inbreeding was such a concern. Why kill him?”
Marius was put down with a bolt pistol, according to zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro.
He said EAZA made the recommendation because there were a lot of giraffes with similar genes in the organisation’s breeding programme.
Stenbaek Bro said the zoo could not sell Marius because part of EAZA membership entails not owning the animals but ‘governing’ them. Apparently killing’s okay.
The Animal Rights organisation in Sweden responded with the observation that “when the cute animal babies that attract visitors grow up they are not as interesting anymore” and pointed out out that some zoos work to preserve a species of animals, but never individual ones.
The zoo’s scientific director Bengt Holst said the giraffe breeding program is similar to that used in deer parks where culling is required to keep populations healthy.
“The most important factor must be that the animals are healthy physically and behaviourally and that they have a good life while they are living whether this life is long or short. This is something that Copenhagen Zoo believes strongly in,” said Holst.
He said contraceptives are not used because of their side-effects.
Holst told the BBC that as part of a responsible practice to ensure their animals remained healthy, about 20-30 animals are put down each year in the Copenhagen Zoo.
“Giraffes today breed very well, and when they do you have to choose and make sure the ones you keep are the ones with the best genes,” he told the BBC.
Animal Rights said this highlights practices in zoos and that “it is no secret that animals are killed when there is no longer space, or if the animals don’t have genes that are interesting enough.”
They said “the only way to stop this is to not visit zoos.”