Twenty four hours after shooting a healthy 18 month old male giraffe, staff members at the Copenhagen Zoo have been receiving death threats. Despite an on-line petition and pleas from animal advocates, the Denmark zoo fed the young giraffe named Marius his favorite breakfast consisting of rye bread and while he was enjoying what was his last meal, a veterinarian shot him dead with a rifle early Sunday, February 9, 2014.
Zoo officials persist that the killing of Marius was done because of a lack of available space and to avoid any further inbreeding. According to Director of Research and Conservation Bengt Holst:
“Our giraffes are part of an international breeding program, which has a purpose of ensuring a sound and healthy population of giraffes. It can only be done by matching the genetic composition of the various animals with the available space…When giraffes breed as well as they do now, then you will inevitably run into so-called surplus problems now and then.”
Shortly after Marius’ death, a public autopsy was held as part of an educational exhibit and some of his remains were fed to other zoo animals.
Advocates and other zoo officials from around the world are asking why the giraffe had to be put down in such a horrific fashion. Questions are being raised as to why the animal was not relocated to another sanctuary. The Yorkshire Wildlife Park located in the UK offered to take in Marius who also has his older brother. The Copenhagen Zoo declined their offer.
Jack Hanna, famed zoo keeper and director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio, also voiced his objections saying that the zoo’s decision was "the most abominable, insensitive, ridiculous thing I've ever heard of." In addition, Hanna questioned why the Copenhagen Zoo would even breed animals knowing that they did not have enough room and why the giraffe had to be put down in such a matter.
Giraffes are the world’s tallest animal growing anywhere from 14 to 19 feet tall. They are herbivores and can live up to 25 years in the wild. This gentle animal is mostly known for its spotted coat with no two individuals having the same exact pattern.
Several staff members and their families, including Holst, have received death threats by means of telephone calls and emails. The investigation into these threats is ongoing.
To read more about this ongoing story, please visit the BBC News
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