COPENHAGEN: This is the horrific moment schoolchildren crowded around to watch as the body of a perfectly healthy giraffe was chopped up before being fed to lions.
Despite more than 20 000 people signing an online petition to save 2-year-old Marius, staff at Copenhagen Zoo yesterday went ahead and shot the animal with a bolt pistol.
Children stood at arm's length as his carcass was skin-ned and dissected before the meat was thrown to the lions.
The Danish zoo said the drastic move was needed to combat inbreeding and insisted the display was educational.
But animal rights campaigners last night condemned the killing of Marius, saying it exposed the cruel reality of welfare even in Europe's top zoos.
Marius's plight had triggered worldwide outpourings of protest, including an offer to rehome him in Britain, with many saying they were sickened by a zoo killing a healthy animal.
Copenhagen Zoo said it was told by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) that Marius was genetically too similar to the other giraffes in its breeding programme. Because captive animals are bred from a limited gene pool, zoos are monitored to prevent inbreeding and ensure the health of future generations.
After announcing plans to have Marius put down, the zoo received offers of a new home - including one from Yorkshire Wildlife Park - as well as a private buyer who offered e500 000 (R7.5 million).
But bosses said the rules of EAZA membership meant animals could not be transferred to institutions that did not follow its rules on breeding programmes.
The zoo's scientific director, Bengt Holst, said it was the same as parks culling deer to keep the whole population healthy.
He said: "Giraffes today breed very well, and when they do, you have to choose and make sure the ones you keep are the ones with the best genes. The most important factor must be that the animals are healthy physically and behaviourally and that they have a good life while they are living, whether this life is long or short."
Holst said the zoo didn't give its eight giraffes contraceptives because of "unwanted side effects on the internal organs" and in order to allow animals to display natural parenting behaviour. According to Danish media, Copenhagen Zoo destroys 20-30 animals a year, including bears, tigers and zebras.
Holst said spaces at institutions such as Yorkshire Wildlife Park should be reserved for "genetically more important" giraffes.
To supporters' horror, the zoo yesterday announced Marius had been killed with a bolt gun instead of a lethal injection, which would have contaminated the flesh.
His carcass was then skinned and chopped up while visitors crowded around and the meat was fed to the lions.
A spokesman said parents were allowed to decide whether their children should watch what the zoo regarded as an important display of scientific knowledge about animals, adding that it would have been "foolish" to let the meat go to waste.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park, whose Danish head of "hoof-stock" offered to rehome Marius, said it was "saddened" by the news.
Stine Jensen, of Denmark's Organisation Against the Suffering of Animals, said the killing showed Copenhagen Zoo was not "the ethical institution that it wants to portray itself as being".
l Longleat Safari Park yesterday admitted it put down two lions and four cubs. The Wiltshire park said it had too many lions and they were growing violent. - Daily Mail
(c) 2014 Independent Newspapers (Pty) Limited. All rights strictly reserved. Provided by Syndigate.info, an Albawaba.com company
Original headline: Danish zoo defends giraffe killing
Most Popular Stories
- Obama Administration Releases Proposal to Regulate For-Profit Colleges
- Elizabeth Vargas' Husband Marc Cohn Addresses Rumors
- Keurig Adds Peet's coffee, Alters Starbucks deal
- Quiznos Files for Chapter 11
- U.S. to Relinquish Gov't Control Over Internet
- SoCalGas Reaches Record Spend on Diversity Suppliers
- U.S. Consumer Sentiment Falls in Early March
- Is Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 in Andaman Sea?
- Vybz Kartel Convicted of Murder
- Koch Brothers Step up Anti-Obamacare Campaign