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The Copenhagen Zoo killed one of its giraffes, a “surplus” as they called the creature, and fed it to the lions. Aside from forcing what happens in nature, there isn’t anything spectacularly weird about this decision. The zoo maintains that just because the giraffe, named Marius, was a big cuddly looking animal doesn’t mean it’s not still just an animal that otherwise would have been eaten out in the wild. Not only is the decision to euthanize the animal in question, so is the decision to perform the autopsy in front of a group of school children.
The zoo used the opportunity to showcase to the kids the working anatomy of the creature in a way that no textbook could compete with. Scientific Director Bengt Holst said that the decision to kill Marius was to make space for a “genetically more valuable giraffe.” The Copenhagen Zoo, as well as other zoos, have to keep a diversified genetic group of animals to be of scientific value. There’s only so much space available, but other zoos did offer to take the animal. As well as a private party, who offered the zoo $680,000.
The reason Marius wasn’t sold, or transferred, is because of the European Breeding Program for Giraffes. The zoo answered direct questions on why they were carrying out the euthanasia, when other parties were willing to accept the animal. Holst said the following in response to the question of why they would euthanize a healthy 2-year-old giraffe.
”Copenhagen Zoo’s giraffes are part of an international breeding programme which aims at ensuring a healthy giraffe population in European zoos. This is done by constantly ensure that only unrelated giraffes breed so that inbreeding is avoided...The most important factor must be that the animals are healthy physically and behaviourally and that they have a good life whilst they are living whether this life is long or short. This is something that Copenhagen Zoo believes strongly in. “
An online petition to save the giraffe received tens of thousands of signatures, but the decision remained with the zoo. Whether or not the educational benefits of showing an autopsy of the giraffe to children is warranted, the decision by The Copenhagen Zoo brings up direct questions of the value of zoos and how animals are treated in captivity. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals spokewoman Elisa Allen released the following statement:
"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."
Was The Copenhagen Zoo Wrong To Euthanize Marius?