Copenhagen Zoo turned down offers from other zoos and €500,000 from a private individual to save the life of a healthy giraffe before killing and slaughtering it in front of children to follow inbreeding recommendations made by a European association.
The two-year-old male giraffe, named Marius, was put down using a bolt pistol and its meat fed to carnivores at the zoo, said spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro.
Visitors, including children, were invited to watch while the giraffe was dissected.
Marius’ plight triggered a wave of online protests and renewed debate about the conditions of zoo animals. Before the giraffe was killed, an 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 were already a lot of giraffes with similar genes in the organisation’s breeding programme. The Amsterdam -based EAZA has 347 members, including many large zoos in European capitals, and works to conserve global biodiversity and to achieve the highest standards of care and breeding for animals.
Stenbaek Bro said EAZA membership isn’t mandatory, but most responsible zoos are members.
He said Copenhagen Zoo turned down an offer from a private individual who wanted to buy Marius for €500,000. 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 organisation that don’t follow the same set of rules. He said that is important for the breeding programmes to work.
When asked if other zoos had offered to take in Marius, the spokesman said yes, but didn’t specify numbers or which ones.
The zoo’s scientific director Bengt Holst said the breeding programme is similar to those in deer parks, where red and fallow deer are culled 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,” he said.
Animal Rights Sweden said the case 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,” it said in a statement.”
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