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Remove Bengt Holst and hold Copenhagen Zoo accountable for the needless shooting, dissection & feeding the meat of a baby giraffe to zoo carnivores in the presence of small children.

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Copenhagen Zoo defends decision to shoot, dissect giraffe on grounds of genetic breeding regulations



Photo: Giraffe Marius pictured just two days before he was shot and fed to lions. (AFP: Kasper Palsnov) Related Story: In-breeding fear forces Danish zoo to kill young giraffe Map: Denmark


Copenhagen Zoo has defended its decision to kill a young, healthy giraffe on the grounds of genetic breeding regulations.

The 18-month-old giraffe named Marius was shot by a vet to prevent in-breeding. It was then dissected in front of gathered visitors, including children, with its meat then fed to the zoo's carnivores.

The death occurred despite offers from two wildlife parks to take the giraffe, and after thousands of people signed online petitions to stop the killing.

The zoo's scientific director, Bengt Holst, says giraffes had to be selected to ensure the best genes were passed down to ensure the species' long-term survival.

Mr Holst said it was a responsible practice for the zoo to ensure its animal populations remain healthy, with some 20 to 30 animals put down at Copenhagen Zoo in a typical year.

"Giraffes today breed very well, and when they do you have to choose and make sure the ones you keep are the ones with the best genes," Mr Holst said.

Although Marius was healthy, his genes were already well represented at the zoo.

Under European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) rules, in-breeding between giraffes is to be avoided and he could not be taken in by the 300 other EAZA-affiliated zoos.

Castration is considered cruel with "undesirable effects", while releasing giraffes into the wild is thought unlikely to succeed.

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EAZA said in a statement that it supports the zoo's decision.

"Our aim is to safeguard for future generations a genetically diverse, healthy population of animals against their extinction," the statement read.

"The young animal in question could not contribute to the future of its species further, and given the restraints of space and resources to hold an unlimited number of animals within our network and programme, should therefore be humanely euthanised."

A crowd of visitors looked on as Marius was put down. Some grimaced while others took photos as he was autopsied and chopped up.

His remains were then fed to lions, tigers and leopards.

Zoo officials said it allowed parents to decide whether their children should watch what the zoo regards as an important display of scientific knowledge about animals.

Mr Holst said the autopsy had been performed outside, given the giraffe's size.

"It is a good opportunity to invite our guests to watch... we are here to educate people and that is a good way to show people what a giraffe looks like," he said.

"People could come into this area if they wanted to. They came with children, without children, we had a lot of people."

Thousands sign petition to prevent death

Marius's impending death sparked outrage online, with more than 5,000 people signing a "Save Marius" Facebook petition.

More than 3,000 people signed a similar Danish-language online petition and nearly 24,000 an English-language version.

One zoo official said he and his family had even received threats from opponents of the decision to put down Marius.

Mr Holst said the zoo had never considered reversing the decision, despite the protests.

"We have been very steadfast because we know we've made this decision on a factual and proper basis," he said.

"We can't all of a sudden change to something we know is worse because of some emotional events happening around us.

"It's important that we try to explain why we do it and then hope people understand it. If we are serious about our breeding activities, including participation in breeding programs, then we have to follow what we know is right. And this is right."

The zoo also made clear that its policy was not to sell animals after several zoos volunteered to take Marius in.

It had turned down offers from other zoos to take Marius and an offer from a private individual who wanted to buy the giraffe for $US680,000.

Small children watch as giraffe fed to lions


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