Marius, a two-year old giraffe at a Danish Zoo in Copenhagen was euthanized on Sunday morning even though he was perfectly health. The zoo stated that it had no choice in the matter since Marius was part of an international breeding program whose bylaws ban inbreeding in an effort to maintain a healthy stock of animals. After Marius was euthanized, with cameras and children watching, they skinned the animal and carved him up for his meat to be fed to the tigers. Shocking as all this is, the question everyone is asking is; Did Marius really have to die?
Bengt Holst, the Copenhagen Zoo’s science director, said that the purpose of the breeding program is to ensure a “healthy population as possible” and as the genes of this giraffe are “over represented” in the breeding program, the European Breeding Program for Giraffe agreed with the decision to euthanize two-year old Marius on Sunday.
A veterinarian on staff anesthetized the animal, and then shot him in the head with a bolt-action rifle, the giraffe died instantly. This decision was made to prevent inbreeding and when the announcement first came it sparked waves of protest on the internet and rekindled fires about zoos and their conditions and treatment of captive animals.
A Yorkshire Wildlife Park had called the zoo to offer housing for the giraffe on Saturday, saying it was saddened by the decision to kill Marius. However, Holst did not comment on this saying it would be “inappropriate” to without knowing the full details. More than 27,000 people has signed an online petition to save Marius and the zoo had received many cash offers for the animal, however since the zoo does not own the animals only governs them, they could not sell him.
After Marius was killed, visitors were given pieces of the giraffe to feed to the tigers, children included. One visitor commented on how great it was, an opportunity for his child to see giraffe anatomy not offered in pictures. Holst said that they would never “waste” 200 kilos of “meat.”
Holst said the autopsy was performed outside to give their guests a “good opportunity” to watch it done and that they are here to “educate” people and that this was a “good way” to show people what a giraffe looks like. He also said that on average 20 to 30 animals are autopsied in the same way every year for educational purposes. He said that they are always “very open” about it.
Holst said that they have to do this to ensure the healthiest breeding population possible for the future. He went on to say that the only way to ensure it is if you control the breeding efforts. The zoo does not give animals contraceptives and cannot castrate animals due to the damage it can cause to the internal organs.
About 15 people gathered outside the gates to the Danish zoo to protest the giraffe being euthanized due to inbreeding risks on Saturday, however their words fell on deaf ears. Holst does not understand why people are making a big deal about it. He said he knows the giraffe is a nice looking animal but it had to be done according to the bylaws they must follow. “I don’t think anyone would have lifted an eyebrow had it been a pig” he said.
By Adam Stier