COPENHAGEN — Saying it needed to prevent inbreeding, the Copenhagen Zoo killed a 2-year-old giraffe, ignoring a petition signed by thousands and offers from other zoos and a private individual to save the animal.
Marius, a healthy male, was put down Sunday using a bolt pistol, said Tobias Stenbaek Bro, a zoo spokesman. Visitors, including children, were invited to watch while the giraffe was then skinned and fed to the lions.
Marius’s plight triggered a wave of online protests and renewed debate about the conditions of zoo animals. 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, followed the recommendation of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria to put down Marius because there already were a lot of giraffes with similar genes in the organization’s breeding program.
The Amsterdam-based EAZA has 347 members, including many large zoos in European capitals. The group works to conserve global biodiversity and achieve the highest standards of care and breeding for animals.
Stenbaek Bro said EAZA membership isn’t mandatory, but most responsible zoos are members of the organization.
He said his zoo had turned down offers from other ones to take Marius and an offer from a private individual who wanted to buy the giraffe for $680,000.
Stenbaek Bro said a significant characteristic of EAZA membership is that the zoos don’t own the animals themselves, but govern them, and therefore can’t sell them to anyone outside the organization that doesn’t follow the same set of rules.
He also said it is important for the breeding programs to work.