Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

København Zoo Kills Healthy Giraffe to “Prevent Inbreeding”… Moscow Zoopark Slams Danish Action

00 Marius the giraffe. 11.02.14


On Sunday, the København Zoo killed a perfectly healthy young giraffe despite an online petition to save it signed by thousands of animal lovers. København Zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro confirmed that the zoo put down Marius, an 18-month-old giraffe, with a bolt gun. Keepers chopped up the body of the giraffe, which they killed in a bid to prevent inbreeding, and fed it to carnivores at the zoo. Stenbaek Bro told AFP, “It was put down at 09.20. It went as planned. It’s always people’s right to protest, but of course we’ve been surprised”. The zoo explained that it had no choice other than to prevent the animal attaining adulthood. Under European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) rules, one should avoid inbreeding between giraffes.

Although Marius was healthy, his genes were already well represented at the zoo; none of the other 300 EAZA-affiliated zoos could take him in under the rules. The zoo considered castration cruel with “undesirable effects”, whilst they thought releasing him in the wild unlikely to succeed. The giraffe’s impending death sparked outrage online, with more than 5,000 people signing a “Save Marius” Facebook petition. More than 3,000 people signed a similar Danish-language online petition and nearly 24,000 an English-language version. There were reportedly several attempts made to save Marius. Expressen reported that a Swedish zoo not part of EAZA tried in vain to get Marius transferred. Another newspaper, Ekstra Bladet, quoted Claus Hjelmbak, a Danish promoter living in Los Angeles CA, as saying he found a buyer for the animal. He said, “One of my close friends, a billionaire, said that he wanted to transfer a few million so we could save the giraffe. He could easily have lived in his garden in Beverly Hills, but the zoo director wasn’t interested in a sale. I’m angry”. The zoo made clear from the beginning of the protest that it’s against its policy to sell animals.

9 February 2014


A Moscow Zoopark statement said, “They shot Marius dead and, for educational purposes, dismembered him in the sight of visitors, and they gave the giraffe’s meat to lions. We don’t share this attitude to treating animals”. It slammed the København Zoo for ignoring many protests from environmentalists and offers from other zoos to take Marius in. The Moscow Zoopark also expressed concern that children saw the animal’s killing. København Zoo officials said that they warned visitors about the killing and they could’ve decided for themselves whether to bring their children with them, saying, “We offered children an excellent opportunity to see the anatomy of a giraffe, a better opportunity than if they’d studied a giraffe from photos”.

The Moscow Zoopark said that it admitted the need to make sure of the genetic purity of rare species, but it said, “However, we consider this method of selection extremely brutal. Moreover, we don’t believe it promising to let a baby animal be born when its plight is known in advance”. They went on to say that  there are less brutal, if costlier, ways of dealing with such situations, noting, “Moscow Zoopark seeks to avoid breeding animals if it’s impossible to keep them, or to hand them over to other zoos. Although, as everyone else does, we love puppies, we have to sterilise animals or keep them apart. Nor do we think it possible to kill an animal because of old age. We often receive complaints that we have ‘old animals’ in our cages, but such is our principle. When there’s a choice, we do our best to keep an animal alive even if it doesn’t look the way one would like it to”.

The København Zoo stated on its website that the killing complied with European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) rules on preventing inbreeding. The statement said EAZA supported Marius’ killing and that it believed that the genetic management of animals in zoos was essential. The zoo said that it had no other option because it considered castration too brutal whilst there are no programmes for the release of giraffes into the wild.

11 February 2014

Voice of Russia World Service



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