Barbaric act for a zoo !

Marius, a 18 month old male giraffe from the Copenhagen Zoo was first brought to my attention when I received a tweet asking to sign a petition to save him from being euthanized. Despite thousands of people signing the petition and offers from other zoos to take Marius, he was killed on Monday 10th of February. I’m not going to pretend that I understand the complete rationale for his death but this is my understating of the circumstances.  

Marius was part of  The European Association of Zoos and Aquarium (EAZA) breeding program for giraffes. Generally  giraffes are taken away from their family when they reach sexual maturity at 18 to 24 months and placed in other breeding groups at another zoo. Zoos do this to protect genetic integrity, or to be more precise to prevent inbreeding within family groups. Ultimately this makes the giraffe breeding line stronger for conservation purposes.  Breeding groups consist of one male bull and several females. Two bulls can not coexist with each other in one breeding group because they will probably fight to the death trying to be the dominant male within that group. 

Based on those circumstances, euthanasia was always going to be Marius fate unless an opening for a bull male became available. EAZA like other zoo associations have very strict rules within breeding programs around the world, managing the all important genetic structure and thus keeping populations viable to protect that species. Marius was not the first giraffe to be euthanized for this reason in fact two other bull giraffes have suffered the same fate in Europe since 2012, although of course these animals could have been exchanged with non-European zoos and lived to continue to contribute to conservation of their kind.

So if I agreed with the reasons why Marius had to die and disregard all the other options open to the zoo, including castration or accepting other zoo offers to take him in, I still cannot get over the barbaric way they killed him. 

When I think of zoos I think of people who care for animals, their environments and their long term survival as well as short term right to life. One could argue that caring for animals is killing a surplus giraffe to keep the rest of that species genetic footprint strong and viable, and I can see how some may say that its a defendable argument . But if caring for animals is to shoot a giraffe in the head, watch it fall to the ground, cut it up into little pieces and feed it to the lions – all in front of families with little children and a YouTube audience of millions, then I’ve totally missed the whole point of zoos and their responsibility for education about the animal kingdom. I think this zoo is a disgrace in the way they publicly and inhumanely killed Marius when he could have lived in another zoo or enclosure. I think the people behind that spectacle should be sacked, and from this day forward when I think of Copenhagen Zoo I will picture Marius an 18 month old giraffe being hacked up. I only hope that the children that witnessed this terrible act don’t think that about all zoos, or grow up thinking that the act demonstrates respect or care for these beautiful creatures.  

© February

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