Dublin Zoo ‘saddened’ at decision to put down giraffe

Zoo says it does not agree with Danish decision given there were other zoos willing to take the animal

A Danish zoo ignored a storm of criticism from animal rights activists on Sunday (February 9) and killed and butchered a healthy young giraffe before feeding its carcass to the lions. The 18-month-old giraffe was named Marius. Video: Reuters

Mon, Feb 10, 2014, 14:57

Dublin Zoo said today it did not agree with the euthanasia of a young healthy giraffe at Copenhagen Zoo on Saturday.

It said it was saddened to hear about the giraffe’s death given the fact there were other zoos willing to take the animal.

Marius was shot to death, and after a public autopsy, the animal, who was 11 feet 6 inches, was fed to the zoo’s lions and other big cats.

Administrators said they decided to put down Marius, who was in good health, because his genes were well-represented among the captive giraffe population in European zoos.

Besides nearly 30,000 online signatures from those who did not want Marius killed, Copenhagen Zoo officials also received death threats after they turned down adoption offers from other zoos, as well as a bid of €500,000 from an individual who was willing to take Marius in.

The Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) today called for a boycott on Dublin Zoo in the wake of Marius’s death saying zoos could not adequately provide for animals in their care.

Spokesman John Carmody said animals suffer physical and mental frustrations in captivity.

“ARAN opposes zoos because cages and cramped enclosures at zoos deprive animals of the opportunity to satisfy their most basic needs. The zoo community regards the animals it keeps as commodities, and animals are regularly bought, sold, borrowed, and traded without any regard for the established relationships,” he said.

“Zoos often breed animals because the presence of babies draws zoo visitors and boots revenues. But the animals fate is often bleak once they outgrow their “cuteness”, he said.

Marius was born in captivity at the Copenhagen Zoo, where there are seven reticulated giraffes, a species native to Africa. The species is not endangered, but it faces threats from habitat loss and hunting.

Bengt Holst, Copenhagen Zoo’s scientific director, defended the decision to put Marius down saying he was not fit for breeding and would be taking up a place that could be given to a more valuable animal.

Speaking on Pat Kenny’s Newstalk show today, Mr Holst said he had to be practical and manage the zoo’s population on a scientific basis.

“Our giraffes are part of a European breeding programme - where you always try to ensure a healthy population far into the future… You cannot with one hand try to make a good population and then dilute that quality by letting inbred animals go in and do this breeding,” he said.

Marius became surplus to the population, he added, and there was a need to cull “as you do every day in nature with deers and rabbits”

On the offers from other zoos to take Marius, including one from Yorkshire Wildlife Park in the UK, Mr Holst said they should have known better.

“They are part of the breeding programme already … and it was analysed whether our giraffe would fit into their place and it didn’t. That was the decision that was made. And if we sent him there anyway it would take space from more valueable giraffes that could go there so that was not an option.”

If we mean serious business with breeding programmes then we shouldn’t fill up space with animals who are of no value,” he added.

Marius was not fully grown when he was put down. He could have grown another 3 feet or so. Officials did not use a lethal injection to kill the giraffe so his meat would be safe for the zoo’s predator animals to eat. After an autopsy that was open to visitors as an educational opportunity, parts of Marius’s remains were fed to the zoo’s lions - and there is some left over.

Additional reporting: The New York Times