UPDATE 8:00am PST: Very sad news: the Copenhagen Zoo killed Marius, a 2-year-old giraffe, and fed his remains to lions on Sunday, ignoring a petition signed by thousands of people and offers from other zoos and a private individual to save the animal, officials said.
The zoo said it acted to avoid inbreeding among its giraffes in keeping with recommendations by a European association.
Marius, a healthy male, was put down using a bolt pistol, said zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro. Visitors, including children, were invited to watch while the giraffe was then skinned and fed to the lions.
Marius’ plight triggered a wave of online protests and renewed debate about the conditions of zoo animals. Before the giraffe was killed, the online petition to save it had received more than 20,000 signatures.
Stenbaek Bro said the zoo, which now has seven giraffes left, was recommended to put down Marius by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria because there already were a lot of giraffes with similar genes in the organization’s breeding program.
He said his zoo had turned down offers from other zoos to take Marius and an offer from a private individual who wanted to buy the giraffe for 500,000 euros ($680,000).
Stenbaek Bro said a significant part of EAZA membership is that the zoos don’t own the animals themselves, but govern them, and therefore can’t sell them to anyone outside the organization that doesn’t follow the same set of rules.
He also said that it is essential that the breeding programs work correctly.
The zoo’s scientific director, Bengt Holst, said the giraffe breeding program is similar to those used in deer parks, where red deer and fallow deer are culled to keep populations healthy.
“The most important factor must be that the animals are healthy physically and behaviorally 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,” he said in a statement.
Holst said the zoo doesn’t give the giraffes contraceptives because they have “a number of unwanted side effects on the internal organs” and the zoo believes parental care is an important part of the animal’s natural behavior.
The organization Animal Rights Sweden said the case simply highlights what they believe zoos do to animals regularly.
“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 organization said in a statement. “The only way to stop this is to not visit zoos.”
It pointed out some zoos work to preserve species of animals, but never individual ones.
“When the cute animal babies that attract visitors grow up they are not as interesting anymore,” it said.
Original Post Feb 8th: A giraffe called Marius is in serious danger of being executed at the Copenhagen Zoo.
His last meal is less than twenty-four hours away. Marius is healthy and just 18 months old.
According to the zoo’s scientific director, Bengt Holst, Marius’ impending death will protect the rest of their giraffe population from inbreeding. Thanks to European laws, he says, Marius must be euthanized before he comes of age and attempts to mate.
Attempts to find the young giraffe a new home have been unsuccessful, says the director. However, Yorkshire Wildlife Park (YWP) near Doncaster, England, said it had contacted Copenhagen Zoo after reading about Marius’s story on the BBC.
The YWP has offered to give Marius a home, but there still hasn’t been a response from the zoo.
Marius is facing death by bolt gun. The zoo plans to use his meat to feed carnivorous zoo animals, and a lethal injection would contaminate the potential feed.
But before the majestic animal’s body is fed to the (literal) tigers, it will be dissected and studied.
This practice of “keeping the population genetically sound” sure doesn’t seem like a kindness to us – either for Marius or for the other giraffes.