Today's News, Tomorrow's Lesson - February 14, 2014

Friday, February 14, 2014

David Harrison

He was young and healthy, but Marius the giraffe was put down by
staff at Copenhagen Zoo to avoid inbreeding.

The killing of Marius has caused widespread dismay. But there was an
even bigger outcry came over what happened next: the two-year old
giraffe was skinned, cut up and fed to the lions – in front of watching

When news of Marius’ imminent demise became public, more than 30,000
people signed online petitions to save him. But the zoo claimed that
there were sound scientific reasons for culling giraffes, and some
argue that animal lovers who criticized the feeding “show” were just
being sentimental.

The Danish zoo explained that Marius’ death was necessary because
his genes were too close to other giraffes in the same breeding
program, and inbreeding has to be avoided under European Association of
Zoos and Aquaria (Eaza) rules. No other zoos among Eaza’s 347 members
could have taken him and Copenhagen Zoo does not sell animals.
Castration was ruled out and releasing him into the wild was thought
unlikely to be successful. And so last Sunday Marius was shot dead with
a bolt gun.

Animal rights campaigners said the killing was barbaric and
unethical. Robert Krijuff, the director of a wildlife park in the
Netherlands, which offered to take Marius, said: “I can’t believe it.
Zoos need to change the way they do business.”

Marius had been offered a home by other zoos, including Yorkshire
Wildlife Park in the North of England. But Copenhagen Zoo said that any
available spaces should be reserved for “a genetically more valuable

Tobias Stenbaek Bro, the zoo’s spokesman, defended the decision to
show the giraffe being skinned and fed to other animals. Parents had
decided whether their children would be allowed to watch, he said, and
he was proud that “we have given children a huge understanding of the
anatomy of a giraffe.”

Bengt Holst, scientific director at the zoo, said he had received
death threats but would not alter the policy. Giraffes bred well and
had to be selected “to ensure the best genes were passed down to ensure
the long-term survival of the species,” he said. “And it would be
absolutely foolish to throw away a few hundred kilos of meat.”

But campaigners were unconvinced. One said: “Why couldn’t Marius
have been allowed to live in a field somewhere with other animals?”


1. What is the purpose of a zoo? Is there more than one purpose?

2. In your opinion, is it ever okay to kill an animal? Explain your

3. Other zoos were willing to take the giraffe. What was Copenhagen
Zoo’s reason for not sending the giraffe to them?

4. “Humans get in the way of the animal kingdom’s natural order.”
Discuss this statement using examples from the article to illustrate
your points.