A Danish zoo giraffe was killed over the weekend, despite strong protests, and its body was fed to zoo lions while visitors watched. According to The Associated Press today, the Copenhagen Zoo killed the young giraffe – only two years old – to “prevent inbreeding.”
Despite an online petition that was signed by over 20,000 individuals, and despite the fact that the Danish zoo received offers from other zoos and even private individuals to adopt the giraffe, “Marius,” a healthy male giraffe, was put down.
Zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek said Marius was killed Sunday using a bolt pistol to the head. Shockingly, the zoo then “invited” visitors, including young children, to “watch while the giraffe was then skinned and fed to the lions,” says The AP report via MSN.
“I'm actually proud because I think we have given children a huge understanding of the anatomy of a giraffe that they wouldn't have had from watching a giraffe in a photo," Stenbaek said.
The Copenhagen Zoo, which now has seven giraffes left, says they were following a recommendation from the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). The Association advocated that Marius be killed because of “similar genes” in the zoo’s breeding program, and because inbreeding could lead to health concerns and diseases in the zoo’s current and future giraffe population.
The zoo received numerous offers to take Marius in, including a private individual who offered $680,000 to purchase the giraffe. Other offers came in from Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Britain and a zoo in northern Sweden. All were turned away.
Stenbaek said the reason his zoo could not accept any private offers for Marius was because EAZA owns the animals themselves; the zoos only govern and care for them. Therefore, the individual zoos have no ability to broker sales of their animals.
Bengt Holst, Copenhagen Zoo's scientific director, said the Yorskshire Park zoo already has Marius' brother, and that sending him there would have only led to the same potential inbreeding problem. He also said that the outcry is based, in large part, on perception.
"I know the giraffe is a nice looking animal, but I don't think there would have been such an outrage if it had been an antelope, and I don't think anyone would have lifted an eyebrow if it was a pig," said Holst.
Animal rights groups roundly condemned the decision to kill Marius.
Animal Rights Sweden said the incident brings to light what happens in zoos with regularity.
"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," the group said in a statement. "The only way to stop this is to not visit zoos. When the cute animal babies that attract visitors grow up, they are not as interesting anymore."
UKs PETA outreach (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) said Marius' case should serve as a wake-up call for anyone who "still harbors the illusion that zoos serve any purpose beyond incarcerating intelligent animals for profit."
"Giraffes rarely die of old age in captivity, and had Marius not been euthanized today, he would have lived out his short life as a living exhibit, stranded in a cold climate, thousands of miles away from his true home," said PETA spokesperson Elisa Allen.
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