Off Court At The 2014 Australian Open

The zoo in Copenhagen is under intense scrutiny after killing a healthy 18-month-old giraffe named Marius in front of a crowd of people that included many children. Yeah, it’s real. Yeah, I do have something in my eye.

On Sunday, the zoo euthanized the giraffe via shooting him in the head. An public autopsy was then performed on his body (included cutting off his body parts) and some of the body was fed to the lions in the zoo.

In some ways, I can understand wanting children to understand the realities of nature, aka that not all animals are cuddly, pettable (Is that a word? It is now) and meant to be kept in your house. But shooting a giraffe AND THEN DISMEMBERING IT in front of zoo visitors, including children? That seems wildly inappropriate and inhumane.

I mean, did visitors opt in to this display, or was it just that if you happened to be walking by the giraffe area, then you’d see a veterinarian holding up pieces of giraffe corpse? Also, was there was no old, decrepit giraffe that could have served as the centerpiece of this lesson on conservation? Apparently, Marius was marked for euthanasia due to risks of inbreeding if he were to stay at the zoo in Copenhagen or get transferred to another zoo. Bengt Holst, director of research and conversation at the zoo told CNN:

“Our giraffes are part of an international breeding program, which has a purpose of ensuring a sound and healthy population of giraffes. It can only be done by matching the genetic composition of the various animals with the available space. … When giraffes breed as well as they do now, then you will inevitably run into so-called surplus problems now and then.”

But again, even if they HAD to euthanize this particular guy, I’m still at a loss wondering why it had to be done in front of children and visitors at the zoo. Holst said the zoo saw it as a learning opportunity for the community, because zoos have an obligation “not to make nature into a Disney World.” You can read a more in-depth statement about the zoo’s actions on its website.

The zoo’s actions have, of course, spurred a lot of outrage from animal rights activists and also regular people like me. Apparently a British zoo had offered to adopt Marius and there was an online petition to save him, which had over 25,000 signatures. Of course I don’t know beans about animal husbandry or the management of giraffes or running a zoo, but I still just can’t understand why Marius couldn’t be transferred to a zoo that was interested in caring for him. Or why his death had to be a public event.

Photo: AFP/Getty Images