A giraffe being fed to lions in front of a crowd of Copenhagen Zoo visitors, including young children, is sparking outrage across the world. The giraffe that became a lion’s meal on Sunday morning was not just any giraffe. Marius was a healthy two-year-old giraffe who was killed because it had “over-represented” genes and was not supposed to breed, reported Time World on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014.
In an interview with Time, Copenhagen Zoo’s scientific director, Bent Holst said that the zoo’s breeding program was “to have as healthy a population as possible, not only now, but in the future. As this giraffe’s genes are over-represented in the breeding program, the European Breeding Programme for Giraffes has agreed that Copenhagen Zoo euthanize him.”
According to Bent Holst, other breeding prevention alternatives, such as administering contraceptives, would cause side effects like renal failure. Neutering the young giraffe “would have diminished his quality of life.”
“Our most important objective is to ensure that the animals have the best life they can for as long as they live, whether that’s 20 years or 2 years. Breeding and parenting are especially important behaviors for a giraffe’s well-being. We didn’t want to interfere with that.”
Despite a worldwide petition with more than 33,000 signatures, a Swedish zoo not restricted by the European Breeding Programme offering to take the giraffe, a Danish promoter living in Los Angeles saying that he had found a buyer for Marius, and a wildlife park in Britain telling the zoo on Saturday that it was willing to adopt Marius, the Copenhagen Zoo proceeded as planned.
On Sunday morning around 9:20 a.m., the healthy and adorable two-year-old giraffe Marius was anesthetized by a staff veterinarian, shot in the head with a bolt-action rifle, skinned, cut up, and fed to the lions – as zoo visitors, including children, watched.
A spokesman for the zoo told the Associated Press the event allowed parents to decide whether their children should watch. "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," said Copenhagen Zoo’s spokesperson Stenbaek Bro.
Besides Copenhagen Zoo visitors taking photos while giraffe Marius was shot, autopsied, skinned, chopped up, and fed as pieces to the lions, the whole process was also broadcast online.
In regard to giraffe Marius having been killed and fed to lions on Sunday, the Copenhagen Zoo said in a statement on its website “that under European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) rules, inbreeding between giraffes was to be avoided. It said it had no choice other than to prevent the animal attaining adulthood, stating that castration is considered cruel with ‘‘undesirable effects’’ and there was no program to release giraffes into the wild.”
On its educational website, however, the zoo provides a much more plausible explanation as to why giraffe Marius was killed and fed to lions in front of children. “The Zoo Education Service offers experimental teaching with live animals for all age groups from preschool to adults.”