Sunday was a sad day at the Copenhagen Zoo, when a two-year old male giraffe was slaughtered despite protests. The zoo made this decision after much careful consideration. As part of an international breeding program the Copenhagen Zoo has certain standards by which it is allowed to keep animals. Marius, as he was named by the staff of the zoo was essentially an extra, they could not keep him, and at the same time the zoo’s strict policy against selling animals prevented them from taking up any of the offers to relocate the otherwise healthy giraffe.
Suggestions poured in, when word got out that Marius would be put down. Zoos from across the world offered to take in the Giraffe, an individual offered to buy the animal. One suggestion was made to simply have him neutered to prevent cross breeding. The staff weighed heavily all of these suggestions and finally came to the conclusion that the best thing for the zoo and for the animal in question was to euthanize him.
In front of zoo patrons the animal was put down with the use of a bolt gun. They used this method so that it would not contaminate the meat. After an autopsy was performed the meat then was prepared for the big game animals in the zoo. As part of the policy when an animal is culled from the herd like this the meat is then used to feed the carnivores. This policy has been implemented frequently in the past, although never with a giraffe. Zoo staff was surprised by the outcry from the public. Nearly 30,000 people signed a petition to save the animal’s life. 16 people showed up to protest the giraffe’s slaughter, stated Copenhagen Zoo’s scientific director, Bengt Holst.
He spoke at length with reporters though, explaining that this was not an issue they took lightly and that after much consideration of the kind of life the animal would lead if it were simply neutered instead of euthanized they decided that euthanizing it would be the most humane response. Giraffe’s are social creatures and Holst stated in an interview that this particular type of animal does not do well by itself. While the Zoo appreciated the many offers that came in from people who wanted to rescue the animal it simply wouldn’t have been feasible, said Holst, as Giraffes require a herd in order to survive. As for the offers to move the animal to another Zoo, Holst tried to explain that the particular genes in Marius were already well represented. The breeding program at Copenhagen Zoo presented a unique problem for allowing the giraffe to continue living, if it bred; scientists were worried that would lead to inbreeding.
Protestors with Animal Rights Sweden issued a statement in regards to this matter stating that it was not surprised that animals are put down when there is not enough room, the issue they took with it was that Marius was killed simply because he did not have “interesting enough genes.” In response to the zoo’s actions the group requested that people boycott the zoo. Holst responded by reminding patrons that the zoo first and foremost was there to educate people about animals and that, he said, was why they chose to euthanize the giraffe and to open the event up to the public so that people could learn more about the animals. The protests which extended onto the internet and went global were not enough to prevent the giraffe from being slaughtered. Holst said that the Copenhagen Zoo will continue this practice in the future.
By Rachel Woodruff