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Danish zoo euthanizes giraffe to prevent inbreeding

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) -- Saying it needed to prevent inbreeding, the Copenhagen Zoo killed a 2-year-old giraffe and fed its remains to lions as visitors watched, ignoring a petition signed by thousands and offers from other zoos and a private individual to save the animal.

Marius, a healthy male, was put down Sunday using a bolt pistol, said zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro. Visitors, including children, were invited to watch while the giraffe was then skinned and fed to the lions.

Marius' plight triggered a wave of online protests and renewed debate about the conditions of zoo animals. Before the giraffe was killed, an online petition to save it had received more than 20,000 signatures.

But the public feeding of Marius' remains to the lions was popular at Copenhagen Zoo. Stenbaek Bro said it allowed parents to decide whether their children should watch what the zoo regards as an important display of scientific knowledge about animals.

"I'm actually proud because I think we have given children a huge understanding of the anatomy of a giraffe that they wouldn't have had from watching a giraffe in a photo," Stenbaek Bro said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Copenhagen Zoo's Killing Of Healthy Giraffe Sparks Outrage

He said the zoo, which now has seven giraffes left, followed the recommendation of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria to put down Marius by because there already were a lot of giraffes with similar genes in the organization's breeding program.

The Amsterdam-based EAZA has 347 members, including many large zoos in European capitals, and works to conserve global biodiversity and achieve the highest standards of care and breeding for animals.

Stenbaek Bro said EAZA membership isn't mandatory, but most responsible zoos are members of the organization.

He said his zoo had turned down offers from other ones to take Marius and an offer from a private individual who wanted to buy the giraffe for 500,000 euros ($680,000).

Stenbaek Bro said a significant part of EAZA membership is that the zoos don't own the animals themselves, but govern them, and therefore can't sell them to anyone outside the organization that doesn't follow the same set of rules.

He also said it is important for the breeding programs to work.

Bengt Holst, Copenhagen Zoo's scientific director, said it turned down an offer from Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Britain, which is a member of EAZA, because Marius' older brother lives there and the park's space could be better used by a "genetically more valuable giraffe."

Yorkshire Wildlife Park said it called the zoo on Saturday with a last-minute offer to house Marius in a new giraffe house with room for an extra male. It said it was saddened by the killing of Marius, but "without knowing the full details it would be inappropriate to comment further."

Copenhagen Zoo also turned down an offer from a zoo in northern Sweden, because it was not an EAZA member and didn't want to comply with the same high standards, Holst said.

"I know the giraffe is a nice looking animal, but I don't think there would have been such an outrage if it had been an antelope, and I don't think anyone would have lifted an eyebrow if it was a pig," said Holst.

Copenhagen Zoo doesn't give giraffes contraceptives or castrate them because that could have unwanted side effects on their internal organs, and the zoo regards parental care as important, said Holst.

EAZA said it supported the zoo's decision to "humanely put the animal down and believes strongly in the need for genetic and demographic management within animals in human care."

However, the organization Animal Rights Sweden said the case highlights what it believes zoos do to animals regularly.

"It is no secret that animals are killed when there is no longer space, or if the animals don't have genes that are interesting enough," it said in a statement. "The only way to stop this is to not visit zoos."

"When the cute animal babies that attract visitors grow up, they are not as interesting anymore," said the organization.

Elisa Allen, spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in the U.K., said Marius' case should serve as a wake-up call for anyone who "still harbors the illusion that zoos serve any purpose beyond incarcerating intelligent animals for profit."

She said in a statement, "Giraffes rarely die of old age in captivity, and had Marius not been euthanized today, he would have lived out his short life as a living exhibit, stranded in a cold climate, thousands of miles away from his true home."


Malin Rising reported from Stockholm, Toby Sterling in Amsterdam and Raphael Satter in London contributed to this report.


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Constance February 11 2014 at 4:10 AM

What in the hell is wrong with people?

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peter.l.richardson February 10 2014 at 10:32 PM

It's time to put Denmark in the same category as some of the other savage countries on the face of the Earth. This is a disgrace and good reason to avoid travel to or commerce with Denmark. The Danish should be ashamed. Disgusting! Next time, save the animals and feed the Danish citizens to the lions.

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1 reply to peter.l.richardson's comment
Lindsay February 11 2014 at 3:29 PM

The problem is ...zoos everywhere, including here. That's what's inhumane. In a civilized world they wouldn't exist. Here, we are known for our inhumane treatment of our animals, especially in our factory farms. Attacking Denmark, a very peaceful country, actually, is merely a distraction from our even more serious problems. here. It's just media diversion. We run to see a pet rescued from a tree or ice and at the same time ignore the 4 million pets killed in kennels, let alone the millions of homeless pets who starve to death or suffer in a lot of ways.
Make your fight here.

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gsalem1580 February 10 2014 at 5:24 PM

Why the hell didnt people leave the area when they saw what was going on--- especially those with young children?

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Walt February 10 2014 at 1:37 PM


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lorraine.usa February 10 2014 at 1:08 PM

Some things are just to sickening to even read about. This is one of them.
There was absolutely no reason why they needed to do this and the way in
which it was done is hard to even imagine. How could this have been allowed
to happen ? What on earth is this world coming to.

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Sharee February 10 2014 at 12:01 PM

sick people if this do this in front of visitors imagine the sick foul disgusting things they do behind closed doors. They should all be fired ASAP sick people.

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starey10 February 10 2014 at 10:37 AM

Humans suck

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icewall42 February 10 2014 at 10:12 AM

Sick. That's pretty much all I have to say about this. Oh, and UNNECESSARY. The giraffe should have been sold or castrated, then later euthanized if these "side effects" proved problematic. Death is certain. Side effects are not. This is why I'm disgusted with zoos. Visit a wildlife sanctuary instead. They house animals for rehabilitation and release, and animals with nowhere else to go. They don't house them for profit, breeding, or entertainment, but you can still visit them. Support them instead. Oh, and it doesn't matter WHAT kind of animal it was. F you, Stenbaek. The animals should be removed from that zoo, and the zoo shut down, for such irresponsibility. (I could care less if kids saw animals eating each other, that's a fact of life. Be thankful it wasn't alive to scream).

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David..BRAAPP February 10 2014 at 9:55 AM

This is what happens when WE allow our Government and the Agencies that THEY put it place.

We are to blame for all the rules,regulations, limiters and taxes that confined and control our every move and regulate how WE and now animals should life and in this case die.

are we next? will the Powers that be say their is to many mouths to feed and implement a reasonable solution?

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G LIL BUTT February 10 2014 at 9:48 AM

Yea, so Switzerland kills their last bear. Copenhagen Zoo kills a giraffe when there were other options. Parton me for saying so but the people on that side of the world are just not right in the head. There are people that say the giraffe would have been killed by lions out in the wild anyway. But, A ZOO IS SUPPOSE TO NURTURE THE ANIMALS, FEED THEM AND PROTECT THEM....NOT KILL THEM!!!

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