A healthy 2-year-old giraffe named Marius was euthanized in Copenhagen Zoo at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 9, despite both online and in-person protests and outrage at their decision. According to reports, Marius was given anesthetic before being killed instantly by a shot to the head from a bolt action rifle.
The giraffe’s body was then skinned and taken apart for use as tiger meat in front of a live audience of visitors, including children, and television cameras, a decision which many are hailing as disturbing. The show, however, was very popular. A spokesperson for the Copenhagen Zoo, Tobias Stenbaeck Bro, said that the zoo was proud to give the opportunity for people to learn about the anatomy of a giraffe in a unique way they would not have otherwise been able to experience. This sentiment is echoed in the popular YouTube channel The BrainScoop, which regularly features educational animal autopsies and dissections filmed at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History.
Prior to Marius’s death, there was massive online dissent from animal rights activists and animal lovers alike. Petitions gathered thousands of signatures, and a boycott was called for on the zoo. Other zoos made offers to take the giraffe, and a private party offered $680,000 to buy Marius from the zoo, however the zoo ignored the outcry and the offers and carried out their plans.
When asked why Marius had to be killed, Bengt Holst, the zoo’s scientific director, explained, according to the bylaws of the European Breeding Programme for Giraffes, an international program to ensure the health of captive giraffes, which prohibit the inbreeding of stock, the zoo had no choice but to euthanize the young giraffe. Marius’s genes were “over-represented in the breeding program.” Following the recommendation from the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, the Copenhagen Zoo made the executive decision to euthanize the young giraffe, despite the protests from online activists.
Holst also addressed the other possible options that were at hand, stating that in the best interest of an animal’s overall quality of life, euthanizing Marius was the best choice, and it was not a choice made lightly. Breeding and parenting are very important aspects of a giraffe’s social life, and in order for Marius to live a full life, the zoo would have been obligated to neuter him in order to prevent further compromise of the gene pool. Any other zoo that would have taken him would have been obligated to do the same, as all European zoos follow the same breeding program. Holst stated,
If we’re serious about science, we can’t be led by emotion
The zoo’s modus operandi is to provide the very best quality of life for each of its animals for as long as they are residents there. Holst claims if the zoo allowed Marius to live any longer, his quality of life and overall well-being would have been severely hampered by his inability to breed. Thus, rather than have the giraffe become very depressed over time, the Copenhagen Zoo decided that euthanizing him was the best course of action, in spite of the protests both online and outside the zoo’s front gates.
by Robin Syrenne