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A Young Giraffe At The Copenhagen Zoo Was Publicly Killed And Fed To Lions

"I don't think anyone would have lifted an eyebrow if it was a pig," a spokesman said.

Posted on February 9, 2014, at 2:35 p.m. ET

Marius, an 18-month-old giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo, was killed and dissected in front of zoo visitors this morning, in order to prevent the giraffes from inbreeding.


Marius the giraffe, two days before he was killed.

A spokesman for the zoo said that there were already a lot of giraffes with genes similar to Marius in the zoo's international breeding program, according to Time.

“The purpose of the breeding program is to have as healthy a population as possible, not only now, but in the future,” said the zoo’s Scientific Director Bengt Holst. “As this giraffe’s genes are over-represented in the breeding program, the European Breeding Programme for Giraffes has agreed that Copenhagen Zoo euthanize him.”

Many people attempted to save the animal — more than 20,000 signed an online petition, two zoos said they would take him, and an individual offered 500,000 euros to stop the killing, but the zoo anesthetized Marius then killed him with a bolt pistol.


The Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Britain already has Marius' brother, so Holst said the park's space should be used to acquire giraffes with more valuable genetics. The other zoo, in Sweden, couldn't offer a promise that they wouldn't sell him later.

Robert Krijuff, the director of a wildlife park in the Netherlands, had made a last-minute offer to take the giraffe that was rejected.

"I can't believe it," he said. "We offered to save his life. Zoos need to change the way they do business."

Visitors, including families with children, were invited to watch while technicians performed an autopsy. The giraffe was skinned, dissected, broken down, and eventually fed to the zoo's lions.


Every year, 20 to 30 animals are put down at the Copenhagen Zoo in order to manage the populations and keep them healthy, Holst told the BBC.

Zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro said the option to watch the giraffe being fed to the lions, a "display of scientific knowledge," was popular with visitors.

AP Photo/POLFOTO, Peter Hove Olesen

"I'm actually proud because I think we have given children a huge understanding of the anatomy of a giraffe that they wouldn't have had from watching a giraffe in a photo," Stenbaek Bro told the Associated Press.

Many organizations were disturbed by the highly publicized killing, with Animal Rights Sweden releasing a statement that Marius' death highlights what the group believes is a normal treatment for animals in zoos.


"It is no secret that animals are killed when there is no longer space, or if the animals don't have genes that are interesting enough," the organization said in a statement. "The only way to stop this is to not visit zoos."

They added, "When the cute animal babies that attract visitors grow up, they are not as interesting anymore."

Holst disagreed with the sentiment. "I know the giraffe is a nice looking animal, but I don't think there would have been such an outrage if it had been an antelope, and I don't think anyone would have lifted an eyebrow if it was a pig," he said.

AP Photo/POLFOTO, Rasmus Flindt Pedersen

Marius' carcass is eaten by lions after he was put down.