February 10, 2014
Giraffe Euthanized By Danish Zoo To Prevent Inbreeding
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Claiming that the move was necessary in order to prevent inbreeding, the Copenhagen Zoo has euthanized a healthy male two-year-old giraffe – despite calls from animal rights activists and other zoos to spare the creature.Copenhagen Zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro told Richard Steed and Malin Rising of the Associated Press (AP) that the giraffe, whose name was Marius, had been put down Sunday using a bolt pistol.
It was then skinned and fed to lions and tigers as children and other zoo visitors were invited to watch, Steed and Rising said. The public feeding was described by the AP reporters as “popular” amongst those who voluntarily watched, and they added that the zoo regarded it as “an important display of scientific knowledge about animals.”
Marius was officially put down at 10am Sunday morning, Time.com’s Lisa Abend reported, and the zoo said that it had no alternative because it is part of an international breeding program, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), which prohibits the practice of inbreeding in order to preserve the health of the species.
“Our giraffes are part of an international breeding program, which has a purpose of ensuring a sound and healthy population of giraffes," Copenhagen Zoo scientific director Bengt Holst told CNN. “It can only be done by matching the genetic composition of the various animals with the available space… When giraffes breed as well as they do now, then you will inevitably run into so-called surplus problems now and then.”
However, according to the AP, more than 20,000 individuals signed a petition asking for Marius to be spared. Furthermore, officials at the Denmark zoo had been contacted by other facilities offering to take in the giraffe, and one private individual who offered them 500,000 euros ($680,000) to purchase the creature.
Holst told the wire service that his colleagues turned down offers from Yorkshire Wildlife Park in the UK because that park’s space could be better served housing a “genetically more valuable giraffe,” and from a Swedish zoo that was not a member of the EAZA and refused to comply with the inbreeding standards set forth by that program.
“The purpose of the breeding program is to have as healthy a population as possible, not only now, but in the future,” he told Abend, noting that the giraffe’s genes were “over-represented” in the breeding program. He said that administering contraceptives or neutering Marius could have caused health issues or diminished his quality of life.
“Our most important objective is to ensure that the animals have the best life they can for as long as they live, whether that’s 20 years or two years. Breeding and parenting are especially important behaviors for a giraffe’s well-being. We didn’t want to interfere with that,” he said, adding that he believed that euthanizing the creature was “the right thing to do.”