Danish zoo kills healthy giraffe, feeds body to lions

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COPENHAGEN, Denmark — An online petition to save a healthy young giraffe from death has failed, despite thousands of signatures from animal lovers.

Copenhagen Zoo said it euthanized the male, named Marius, on Sunday because of a duty to avoid inbreeding.

After an autopsy, “Marius” was dismembered in front of a zoo audience that included children, and fed to the zoo’s lions.

Despite online uproar over the move and reports of last-minute attempts to save the animal, the zoo in the Danish capital said it had no place for Marius in its giraffe herd.

“Our giraffes are part of an international breeding program, which has a purpose of ensuring a sound and healthy population of giraffes,” Bengt Holst, scientific director at Copenhagen Zoo, 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.”

Fed to the lions

Marius was killed by a bolt gun, not a lethal injection, which would contaminate the meat.

The carcass was used partly for research and partly to feed carnivores at the zoo — lions, tigers, and leopards.

“In this case we would never throw away 200 kilograms of meat,” Holst said.

He said the giraffe was 2 years old, and while he was not officially named, his keepers had called him Marius to identify him.

The giraffe’s impending death had sparked outrage online, with more than 27,000 people signing a “Save Marius” petition, appealing for a last-minute change of heart.

“The zoo has raised him so it is their responsibility to find him a home,” author Maria Evans wrote on the petition site.

Copenhagen Zoo said that due to a massive debate on its Facebook page, it had published a Q&A about the decision on its website.

“It is not possible to transfer the giraffe to another zoo as it will cause inbreeding,” it said.

Several zoos volunteered to take Marius in.

The UK’s Yorkshire Wildlife Park, which says it has a state-of-the-art giraffe house and the capacity for an extra male, was among several places which put in offers to take him.

International breeding program

Copenhagen Zoo said only zoos that follow certain rules can be part of international breeding programs.

In Europe, these are members of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. The association counts just over 300 members and under its rules, inbreeding among giraffes is to be avoided.

The association said in a statement Sunday that it supports the zoo’s decision.

Despite Marius being healthy, his genes are already well represented at the zoo. Releasing the giraffe into the wild would be unlikely to succeed, Copenhagen Zoo said.

Contraceptives “have a number of unwanted side effects on the internal organs and we would therefore apply a poorer animal welfare if we did not euthanize,” it said.

It also made clear that its policy was not to sell the animals.

Outside autopsy

Holst told CNN the autopsy had been performed outside, given the giraffe’s size, and watched by the public, including children if their parents allowed them to.

“It is a good opportunity to invite our guests to watch. … We are here to educate people and that is a good way to show people what a giraffe looks like,” he said.

“People could come into this area if they wanted to. They came with children, without children, we had a lot of people.”

He said a group of about 16 protesters had gathered outside the zoo on Sunday morning and that he had tried to speak with them.

He said all options had been explored before the decision had been made.

“We have always been very open about it, explaining why we are doing it,” he said.

On average, he said some 20 to 30 animals, including goats, antelopes and wild boar, were culled for the same reason every year at the zoo.

“This is the first giraffe. … I do not understand the outrage — we are all used to on a current basis of animals being culled in the wild,” he said.

“We have to ensure a safe healthy population for the future, and you can only have a healthy population if you control and coordinate your breeding efforts.”


  • dobydog1

    this is sick. what kind of parent would let their kids watch this kind of act. they should have given him to another zoo who was willing to him. ang – if this is just the circle of life, do you call for this type of treatment on excess humans also?

  • Alice

    The main thing about animal breeders is the health of it’s breeding line . As to killing a healthy animal is a black mark on breeders everywhere .It is the duty of all breeders to find homes for any animals that they can not use ,Not kill them !! To that Zoo I say SHAME ON YOU !! You could have checked out every zoo around the world to see if you could have exchanged and animal and not have to put it down in front of the whole world like you did . This animal was NOT in the Wild , this is a animal that is on display in a public zoo . Not in a wildlife park ,where they still live wild . But still are being fed by people .If you can not use him , you should not be breeding at all !!You are just as bad if not as worst as the puppy and kitten mills here in the States !!Maybe next time you should throw some of your zoo employees that do this breeding to the Lions so that they can feed on them !!

    • Nathan

      At least they used him to feed the other animals. Is it really any worse than butchering cows to feed humans? Really?

    • Stephen Melton

      And just where do you think those slabs of raw meat they feed to the lions daily comes from?
      If it happened out in the wild, as happens every day, since you didnt see or hear about it, its meaningless right?
      Ever try giraffe? Its actually pretty good..more like pork…real good pork.

  • Brewster

    What’s the difference between 200 kilos of meat from deer, bison, antelope, cows, chickens or turkeys? Some other animals will need to be slaughtered in order to feed the zoo’s carnivores, what about them? 200 kilos of meat produced from within the zoo is 200 kilos they don’t have to buy from some other producer. This species of giraffe is NOT endangered. And ethical zoos do NOT sell animals.

  • Ashley

    Idc what people say……This is just wrong…. Animal Cruelty if you ask me…He was a HEALTHY 2 Year old Giraffe…. I mean if he was sick or something or suffering or what not I can see a point but considering he wasn’t and was HEALTHY then it’s just down right wrong…..

  • Ricky

    probably had evidence of a genetic experiment or a man made genetic disorder… why would it hurt to send its inbred genes to another country or region? its not likely its gonna find a mate with similar DNA!

  • Brandy Hurt

    Just a thought on this, but my uneducated opinion may not be correct… If you can neuter a dog, can’t you neuter a giraffe, if breeding him was the only issue here??

  • a man

    I truly think the zoo is the most boring way to spend a day but I would have been present if Asheboro zoo decided to lead a giraffe into the lions den. get a grip people. zoologist are trained professionals and know better than any of us what is best for the total population of any animals in their care. as far as the lions eating the carcus… so what? it happens in the wild daily. it wasn’t a good deal for the giraffe, but think how happy the lions are after getting a meal they would normally have outside of captivity. it is a circle of life, and anyone who doesn’t agree need to remember the chicken, cow, fish, and any other animals we humans consume everyday.

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