Danish zoo euthanizes shealthy giraffe. Rage, or meh?

article here: a zoo in Denmark recently euthanized a perfectly healthy giraffe. The claimed justification was that there are already more than enough giraffes breeding in captivity, and this one does not add enough genetic diversity to the gene pool; resources that were being used by this giraffe can now be used to support a future giraffe that does bring sufficient genetic diversity to the population.

Adding to the controversy:

-the animal was shot in the head instead of being sedated. The CNN article above says it was shot with a rifle, though I had heard elsewhere that a captive-bolt gun (the same device used in slaughterhouses) was used.

-the carcass was butchered in front of a live public audience that included children.

-the parts were fed to the zoo’s big cats (thus the reason for not drugging it to death).

Me? I’m not bothered by any of it.

So…how outraged are you?

Not outraged, part of me feels the children should not have sen this and part of me feels it is just part of life. The parents could take them away if they needed to.

Commentary on the issue from The Brain Scoop
I’m with you. Circle of life and all that.

Sad about the necessity. Zoos do not have bottomless pockets, and an animal that is no use to the breeding program can’t be kept indefinitely. They made an attempt to relocate the giraffe but were unable to find any takers.

It makes perfect sense that they butchered the animal to feed the lions and other predators. That makes the use of the stun bolt necessary, and if it’s acceptable to use on cattle, then it should be fine for the giraffe. I think it’s odd that they butchered it in front of the zoo visitors, including children, but Europeans have different sensibilities about these things, so maybe it wasn’t as offensive as it would be here in the States.

Circle of life. Unless your kids are vegetarian, seeing how things work is a positive thing. I just feel bad for Giraffe.

We kill millions of cows to feed ourselves. Presumably the zoo’s cats eat meat that has to come from somewhere. So I’m not outraged. A bullet or bolt to the brain is a better death than most animals get.

The fact that it was killed and the method of killing doesn’t bother me in the least (if it bothers you, then you had d–n well better be a vegetarian or you’re a hypocrite - that is how it’s done for cows). I haven’t bothered reading up on the incident since it didn’t interest me, but if in fact it was butchered** in public,** especially in front of children, THAT I would be concerned about (just as I would be concerned if a cow was slaughtered and butchered with a similar audience).

The CNN story linked above says otherwise:

While I’m not absolutely outraged, I think this is idiotic and reflects very badly on the Copenhagen zoo. Either they shouldn’t have allowed the giraffe’s parents to mate with each other in the first place if genetic diversity is so all-fired important to them, or they should find some way to deal with a surplus giraffe other than killing him. You breed an animal, you take responsibility for it.

They’re constrained by their EAZA membership in terms of who they’d have been able to send Marius to. Yorkshire Wildlife Park already has Marius’ older brother and it doesn’t solve the diversity problem, it just foists it off on another zoo. Zoos do this all the time when they have surplus populations. The public feeding is novel but no one was forced to watch.

The main problem with this is that they really shouldn’t be breeding the giraffes if they don’t have either the space or inclination to rehome them. The same zoo, in the past, has allowed the leopards to breed then euthanized the cubs when they stopped being cute.

I mean, from a pure conservation standpoint, I suppose I can see the sense, but I don’t see how allowing a large zoo animal to breed when there is no home for the young is any less irresponsible than letting your domestic cat breed freely. It’s seen as bad practice in almost all other zoos, and I think rightly so. Yes, ‘surplus’ males are a common problem in some species (how can they not be in species where females are happiest in groups, only one male can be kept with them, and equal numbers of each are born?) but it’s a problem most decent places go to great lengths to minimise, maintaining bachelor groups (as happens in the wild), rehoming them, and only euthanising when all other avenues have been explored.

It’s not that hard in a good set-up to prevent most large animals from breeding; you can seperate them in season, get them sterilised permanently, or even get temporary contraceptives for some species. I don’t see why we should hold zoos to a lower standard of animal care than domestic pet owners.

Incidently, I do say this as someone who’s worked in several UK zoos- and my family run one. The only healthy ‘surplus’ animal that’s been put down there in the last 22 years was a male meerkat that was thrown out of the group, and we spent over 6 months trying to rehome him before it became obvious that he was not coping at all with a solitary life, and was starting to mentally suffer. Everyone was miserable about it for weeks. Meerkats form large family groups- you can’t really stop them from breeding but keep them in a natural colony. Giraffes don’t have the same issue.

Yep, circle of life. Cats gotta eat meat so something had to die.

If they were an endangered species, maybe, but they are not.

It’s still better than just setting it loose in the lion enclosure.

It was.

We exercise some discretion about the level of detail we use when describing sex/reproduction to children, with the level of detail increasing as kids get older. I suppose a similar progression is approriate for uncomfortable aspects of biology like death and dismemberment. I don’t have kids, so I maybe don’t have the best perspective on this. If you have kids, what age do you feel is appropriate for them to bear witness to the death and dismemberment of a substantial animal like a giraffe?

How old are kids when they go fishing and catch/kill/clean their first fish?

One of the complaints I heard is that this public event “desensitizes people to the brutal killing of an animal.” I take issues with the “brutal” descriptor, since a bullet/bolt to the brain is surely as painless as a sedative overdose. But apart from that, is it true? Does watching while an animal is killed and dismembered desensitize you to it? Conversely, does never witnessing such a thing maintain your sensitivity to it? Should we avoid watching all those nature documentaries that show a lion slowly asphyxiating a zebra, or a pack of hyenas ripping into a wildebeest while it’s still alive?

Is it maybe worthwhile for people to see (if they’re interested), and viscerally understand, that a process very much like this is required in order to make a hamburger for them?

Farm kids have been seeing far worse for 100’s of years.

After reading everything about this, my rational side totally understands it. The public display seemed to be a good educational event. However, giraffes are my favorite animal, which means my emotional side is totally pissed about this.

I’m not especially bothered by this, but… Why couldn’t they just neuter that bad boy and ship him off to Yorkshire?

Giraffes can live 25 years or more; with limited food/space available, one cited reason was to avoid wasting resources on a giraffe that did not contribute an acceptable level of genetic diversity to the gene pool.

You know who else killed for the sake of genetics.

Mendel. But who really cares about peas?

Thanks for that. I guess I can see that argument, but I’m not sure I find it persuasive.