Some people mourned the loss of Marius, a reticulated giraffe, last Sunday when news of his death in a zoo in Europe exploded into the open. This animal was two-years-old, 11 feet and six inches with the possibility to grow three more feet. The Copenhagen Zoo shot the healthy giraffe because his genes were well embodied in other reticulated giraffes in zoos throughout Europe. After killing the animal and performing an autopsy of it in front of a crowd, zoo-keepers gave the meat to lions and will give the rest to other large cats.
Marius was bred in captivity and was one of seven reticulated giraffes in this zoo, a species that is indigenous to Africa and faces danger from loss of habitat and hunting, but as yet is not endangered. Officials of the Copenhagen Zoo turned down offers from other parks to adopt the giraffe, as well as an offer of 500,000 euros ($682,000) from a person willing to take the animal. The denials of these proposals resulted in the officials’ receiving death threats from angry citizens. There were also last-minute attempts to stop the euthanasia, including online signatures from almost 30,000 people and the urging of the Animal Rights Sweden group of people to halt visiting zoos.
The zoo’s scientific director, Bengt Holst, reminded people who a giraffe is not a pet like a dog or cat. He did not send Marius to another zoo because that could potentially cause inbreeding and the animal could have taken the place of a more valuable giraffe in a breeding program. Mr. Holst did not give the giraffe to an individual because the creatures are social and would not do well separated from their kind. He said that he desired the animals to have a good, natural life as long as they remain at the zoos.
After the explosion of emotion and information about Marius’ euthanasia, information of the same has reached the open about another zoo in Europe. In western Denmark the Jyllands Park Zoo is contemplating euthanizing a male giraffe for similar reasons as that in Copenhagen. This park already has a male giraffe and is about to obtain a female.
The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, also in Europe, has had to euthanize animals in the past, but only to those that are suffering. Their reasons for ending an animal’s life include intense suffering and an incurable injury or disease. An official at the Children’s park remarked that the zoo keepers are emotionally attached to the animals and take the decision very seriously.
Most zoo officials are not hasty to spill numbers about how many animals they kill annually, but at least one specialist assessed and guessed that the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria’s (EAZA) members kill roughly 1,700 animals a year. EAZA also reported that since 2005 five giraffes have been killed in European zoos and besides Marius, the Copenhagen zoo said that it kills 20-30 llamas, goats, antelopes and other animals annually. Another park in Denmark, the Aalborg Zoo, stated it kills a maximum of 15 animals annually, anything from red river hogs and antelopes to capybaras.
To avoid euthanizing their animals because of lack of space, some zoos attempt to find another park that they can send offspring to. A zoo in Germany, Europe, decided to send a monkey that was producing too much young to the Czech Republic instead of euthanizing the animal. U.S. zoos have attempted to control the problem of species over-population by using contraceptives, but many have criticized this method for destroying the animals’ natural behavior. There is not one policy for every zoo about euthanasia; it depends on each case since each animal is different.
By Rachel Fike