Healthy giraffe killed in Denmark despite 500,000-euro offer to save it

Zoo then invites public, including children, to watch autopsy before remains are fed to a lion

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 4:47am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 10:20pm

Copenhagen Zoo turned down offers from other zoos and €500,000 (HK$5.25 million) from a private individual to save the life of a healthy giraffe before killing and slaughtering it yesterday to follow the inbreeding recommendations made by a European association.

The almost two-year-old male giraffe, named Marius, was put down using a bolt pistol, a zoo spokesman, Tobias Stenbaek Bro, said.

A crowd of visitors, including children, looked on as the giraffe was put down. Some grimaced while others took photos as he was dissected for an autopsy. A full-maned lion later tucked into the giraffe's remains.

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

Stenbaek Bro said the zoo, which now has seven giraffes left, was recommended to put down Marius by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria because there were already a lot of giraffes with similar genes in the organisation's breeding programme.

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

Stenbaek Bro said the zoo turned down an offer from a private individual who wanted to buy Marius for €500,000. Stenbaek Bro said a significant part of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria membership is that zoos don't own the animals, but govern them, and therefore can't sell them to anyone outside the organisation that doesn't follow the same set of rules.

He said that was important for the breeding programmes to work.

The zoo's scientific director, Bengt Holst, said the giraffe breeding programme was similar to those used in deer parks, where red deer and fallow deer are culled to keep populations healthy.

The organisation Animal Rights Sweden said the case simply highlighted what they believe 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," the organisation said. "The only way to stop this is to not visit zoos."