A perfectly healthy 18-month-old giraffe named Marius was killed with a bolt gun by Danish zookeepers and autopsied in full view of visitors, including children.
As a “surplus” animal, Marius’ body will be chopped up and fed to resident carnivores at the Copenhagen Zoo.
The zoo said Marius had to die to keep the giraffe population down to prevent inbreeding.
Despite an offer from another zoo to take Marius and thousands of signatures on a petition to spare his life, Marius was shot dead. Lethal injection was not used so that the meat would not be contaminated.
“You have to accept that there is a surplus of animals that cannot be included in the genetic chain without causing inbreeding problems,” Bengt Holst, the zoo's scientific director, told the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet.
The zoo participates in a European breeding program that has strict guidelines about inbreeding in order to ensure giraffe health.
It’s unclear why the zoo rejected an offer from Yorkshire Wildlife Park in the Netherlands, which has the capacity for an extra male giraffe and a state-of-the-art giraffe house, to take Marius in.
“I can't believe it,” said the park’s director, Robert Krijuff. “We offered to save his life. Zoos need to change the way they do business.”
Holst claims moving Marius to another zoo was considered, but there was no place for him. He said Yorkshire Wildlife Park should be reserving any space for a “genetically more important giraffe,” the Daily Mail wrote.
Holst said the petition to save Marius went “much to far.”
Ekstra Bladet reported that the Copenhagen Zoo has also killed tigers, bears, and zebras to stop overbreeding.