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Amend EAZA euthanasia policies, ethically manage populations with contraception, cooperate with international organisations to relocate healthy animals to suitable environments.

This petition had 1,634 supporters


- EAZA has 347 current members across the EU. [1]
- EAZA controls the animals in the care of its member Zoos and Aquaria which includes the now infamous Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark and Longleat in UK.  These Zoos therefore do not own their animals but manage them for EAZA.  
- Zoos are businesses first and foremost.
- The public entrusts zoos to be responsible and set an example of good animal husbandry and to value life in particular the ones created within these organisations.
- Zoos are known to encourage breeding to ensure there are always young animals on display for visitors.
- The term "Conservation Programme" is a valuable tool in quietening public concerns.  
- The EAZA Yearbook 2007/2008 (the latest publicly available edition) states clearly that a “breed and cull” policy should be followed for some animals. [2] 
- Diversity comes from planned pairings of known DNA, duplicates occur when this is not managed efficiently.
- Any healthy creature created from a breeding programme is valuable, this animal may need to be swapped or relocated in order for it to live out its life.
- EAZA does not publish records or advertise the number of healthy animals that have been culled, but Executive Director, Lesley Dickie, estimates (numbers are not accurately noted) that somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 animals are “management-euthanised” in European Zoos… IN ANY GIVEN YEAR. [2]
- EAZA Executive Director, Lesley Dickie, admits that record keeping regarding each animal in its care is fallible and sometimes information will be missing. An animal may just be listed as having died, without any indication whether it was for medical or management reasons”.  [2]
- Official numbers of healthy large mammal euthanasia in Europe which have been obtained include:  5 Giraffes between October 2012 – February 2014  (all in Denmark).  4 Hippopotamus in 2012 (Portugal, Spain, Germany and Denmark).  22 Zebras between 2000 and 2012 (including Marwell, UK).  11 Arabian Oryx between 2000 and 2009 (Edinburgh, London, Rotterdam and Zurich) plus dozens more Oryx at Zoos in Qatar and United Arab Emirates which ARE part of the European Breeding Programme. [2]
- Simon Tonge, Director of South West Environmental Parks (which operates Paignton Zoo Environmental Park, Newquay Zoo, Whitley Wildlife Conservation Trust and Living Coast Torquay in the UK) said in response to euthanasia in the media: “One Gorilla would generate more interest and more column inches than 10,000 rats – so the numbers game for me is kind of irrelevant”.
- Simon Tonge is also Chairman of the EAZA Executive Committee (until elections in 2015).  He is also on the board for the Membership and Professional Ethics Committee for World Association for Zoo and Aquariums (WAZA) as is Thomas Kauffels (see below). 
- Simon Tonge states on Paignton Zoo (Devon, UK) website: “I have the best job in the world. Working with dedicated people who share my passion for nature and want to do their utmost to save it, is a great job and privilege”.  In 2007, Paignton Zoo culled seven of their free-roaming male Peacocks after two complaints from nearby residential neighbours and chopped down an ancient tree to prevent remaining birds from roosting in it.  [9]
- Bengt Holst, Scientific Director of Copenhagen Zoo said “That [estimated 3,000-5,000] figure includes some smaller animals, not just the big “charismatic megafauna” that have the potential to make headline news.  At the larger end of the scale, Copenhagen has put down Leopards, Tigers, Lions, Bears, Antelopes and Hippos in recent years, as well as the young Giraffe Marius”. [2]
- Bengt Holst is also on the EAZA Executive Committee.  He heads the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) Committee.
- EAZA Executive Committee members come from various member Zoos.  Most notably Head of the Membership and Ethics Committee: Frank Rietkerk, Director of Apenheul Zoo (Netherlands) and Head of the Legislation Committee: Thomas Kauffels, President of Opel Zoo (Germany).  This keeps business firmly “in-house”.
- In the wild animals do interbreed. Even in packs where there is an Alpha pair, lower ranking members such as siblings will occasionally have their own young and with a large population this is not a problem. Whilst each zoo may not have a large herd or pack, Europe and the rest of the world have a collectively huge captive population.  
- Copenhagen Zoo has a policy of only giving an official name to animals with a prospect of living 50 years or more.  Yet they terminated a young Giraffe named Marius at 18-months-old.
- Longleat Safari Park (United Kingdom) is also a member of EAZA and was also in the news in February 2014 after killing six lions from their pride due to an increase in pregnancy figures after breeding was left unmanaged. 
- The Head of Magdeburg Zoo (Germany) and three of his keepers were prosecuted in 2010 for culling three Siberian Tiger cubs “without reasonable cause”.  EAZA however, contradicted the judgement and viewed the actions “entirely reasonable and scientifically valid”. [2]  
- Edinburgh Zoo (Scotland) destroyed twin young and healthy RARE Red River Hog piglets in 2010 because the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) run by EAZA had reached its quota.  Staff were horrified and while the Zoo admitted that culls happen a couple of times each year, it refused to disclose which species were involved or the numbers of animals culled.  A ZOO SPOKESPERSON SAID “SAMMI AND BECCA WERE HUMANELY EUTHANISED AFTER THE EEP IDENTIFIED A SURPLUS.  AS A MEMBER OF EAZA, IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT THE ROYAL ZOOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND COMPLIES”.  It did not comment of the possible fate of three other Red River Hog piglets at the Zoo.[7]
- Knowsley Safari Park (Prescot, UK), owned by Edward Stanley the 19th Earl of Derby, not only culled animals including endangered species but also failed to do so humanely or by a trained professional.  A whistleblower turned from taking cute images used to promote the zoo, to images which unveiled behind the scenes truths.  Culling was used as training for some staff and animals took multiple bullets before dying in agony.   On top of this, the carcasses were not disposed of correctly and posed a risk to animals within the collection and visitors as they rotted in the open air in areas off-limit to the public. The Zoo maintains that the animals photographed decomposing in the open air were not culled but had “died of natural causes such as stillbirth”.  Those with bullet wounds were “destroyed after sustaining fighting injuries”. [8] WARNING: images from the link provided may cause upset.
- Contraception is a viable way of managing both captive and wild populations. There are a range of methods such as gender separation and from temporary to permanent (such as spaying or castration).
- American zoos, under the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) practice the use of contraception to prevent the birth of surplus animals. [2]

* is not about any individual animal case in particular, although it refers to recent events.  
* is not calling for a ban on euthanasia when used to prevent suffering.  
* understands the need for management of captive populations when through efficient and ethical means.
* aims to encourage those in prominent positions within EAZA, British Government and European Parliament Committees to enter into dialogue with a view to changing captive animal welfare policies by which its EAZA members comply.


7 April 2014 - Dahlholzli zoo (Bern, Switzerland) has admitted killing a healthy 12-week-old Brown Bear cub to protect it from being bullied by its dominant father. 
Adult Misha has already killed one of his twin cubs because keepers failed to see a necessity to separate the mother and the cubs into their own enclosures.  It is natural behaviour for a mother bear to chase the father out of her territory while the cubs are young.  However the zoo defended its choice to force them together in order to "give the cubs a natural upbringing by raising them together with their parents, and that if they were separated it would lead to "massive behavioural disorders..."."   This shows a clear lack of understanding and/or a lack of true concern for welfare and replicating as closely as possible natural habitat, territory and behaviour particularly for the mother who now has no cubs to rear because she and they were placed in unnecessary danger. In the wild, mother bears do not raise cubs with the father.

The mother bear had to protect her cubs from her mate in a close environment and keepers considered that she was not doing enough to intervene.  The Zoo maintains that the problem was with the mother's lack of action.
The zoo's website declares that the male bear will now be sterilised - which means he may well also face euthanasia in the future as he becomes surplus to their ineffective breeding programme.

The Zoo's Tagline is: "ANIMAL Dahlholzli BERN - More space for less animals".

Sources:  (translation needed)

March 2014 - A whistleblower contacted the Mail on Sunday newspaper over the secret culling of animals at Longleat Safari Park (UK).  In early 2014, while the park was closed for the winter, it culled six of its Lions including four cubs due to an "increase in pregnancies" and to the horror of the keepers.  

According to the source, male lion Henry and later a lioness, Louisa, and their four cubs were injected with a lethal substance from a dart gun.  Henry has been vasectomised so he could longer breed and was put down in January, but Longleat maintains that the decision was forced by injuries he “sustained from an attack within the enclosure” and that the other lions were culled “due to associated and severe health risks”.  
Lion territory had been reduced to house Cheetahs.
The question for Longleat therefore must be why the lions were not given contraceptives and managed, if the enclosures and facilities at the park were not sufficient for separate prides.

John Knight, a veterinary consultant who has worked with the World Wildlife Fund and the Born Free Foundation and a renowned big cat expert, stated: 
"This seems to be an odd thing to do…  [They] could be part of a conservation programme.  It [violence within the pride] is a debatable reason for putting down a lioness and her cubs but until all the details emerge it is difficult to understand their thinking.
“Most zoos have a contraceptive programme in place and manage to control populations perfectly well… It's just not a problem that most zoos experience...  It does seem such a shame that so many young animals have been involved."


Viscount Ceawlin Thynn, the 39-year-old son of the Marquess of Bath and Grandson of the founder of Longleat Safari Park (ironically built on the backs of its “famous Longleat Lions”) admitted errors since he took over the running of the estate in 2010:

“There was a deliberate expansion of the Lion population at Longleat… this was to ensure that there were always cubs on view for visitors.  There was a failure to ensure contraception was used properly to control the population.  In-breeding and genetic problems were a threat.”  He also admitted that the safari park “has secretly killed a lion and cubs on previous occasions.”  The impact of increased pregnancies collided with the use of part of the Lions territory being used to house the Cheetahs. 

Former employee Mattias Warner, blew the whistle on the park and admitted that in 2009 he had been instructed to hold four “healthy and thriving one-week-old cubs” while the vet destroyed each one and that this left him heartbroken.  Longleat, having looked into its records, admits that FIVE cubs were culled in 2009, although Viscount Thynn who is married to aspiring TV cook Emma McQuiston, cites different reasons, of injuries caused by the mothers, which contradict the former keeper who witnessed the cull.


This amounts to a deliberate mismanagement, even abuse, of animal welfare for profit.   

At the end of March 2014, just weeks after the death of a young Giraffe named Marius at Copenhagen Zoo (Denmark), news broke that the same zoo had now disposed of a family of healthy Lions to make way for a new male Lion it was intending to bring in.  
The two cubs from this family were just 10 months old and introduced to the public with much excitement in July 2013.  
According to the zoo the youngsters would be "unable to fend for themselves" without their parents.  But their parents aged 14 and 16 years were "reaching the end of their usefulness to the captive breeding programme".   So the entire family unit was destroyed.

Copenhagen Zoo made no provisions for the animals already in their care and the ones they had created, including keeping them separate, before choosing to bring in a new male.  They did not attempt to relocate them to other zoos or conservation or even, perhaps, reintroduce them with a soft release programme to a semi wild, supported environment.

The reason for killing the parents of the cubs were given as being part of a "generational shift".  In short, they had served their purpose and along with their cubs were no longer deemed as assets... further underlining that business comes before the public facade of conservation.

The Born Free Foundation has issued a statement:

"  "Following the news that Copenhagen Zoo decided to kill a healthy 18-month old Giraffe on the 9th of February, the Born Free Foundation is calling on EAZA to ensure greater transparency about the management of animals in their member zoos.  Killing healthy animals should never be used to manage 'animal collections'.  Members of the public entrust zoos to care for their animals.  Born Free is working closely with Members of the European Parliament to call for a prohibition on the use of euthanasia as a management tool in zoos."   "


Copenhagen Zoo is just one of the EAZA institutions which has hit the headlines in the past few months.  It has undoubtedly raised the issue of euthanasia as a management tool, but it is not the only zoo which operates according to EAZA’s Breed and Cull policy.  Efforts to shut down Copenhagen will merely move the problem to other zoos.  It is far better to change the policies that all zoos must follow, rather than make a large number of animals homeless or moved to a different zoo which will behave in the same way as the first.


The disgust at Marius's body being fed to the Lions was international, but as he was killed with a bolt gun, the meat was viable and was rightly used in the food chain.   This is upheld by EAZA’s Euthanasia Statement (approved 26 Sept 2011) “Where local legislation allows, the culled animal can also provide enrichment for the institution’s carnivores by being fed to them and increasing their welfare”

EAZA’s statement continues: “A post-mortem examination should be performed and biological material preserved for research and gene conservation.  The results of the post-mortem should also be passed to the relevant programme coordinator, and full records of any results and outcomes should be archived.”

But it was the encouraged publicity gained by the dissection, despite its educational value, that left a bad taste in people's mouths, when so many had tried to save the young bull.  


EAZA should not be confused with AZA the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a non-profit accrediting body for the United State of America and six other countries, founded in 1924.

AZA issued a recent statement on its website:

“The Association of Zoos and Aquariums regrets the unfortunate incident at the Copenhagen Zoo involving the death of a Giraffe.  Incidents of that sort do not happen at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums for several reasons: [AZA] carefully manage breeding programs, maximizing the genetic diversity of the populations and minimizing the births of more animals than the population can support or the zoo can care for; the more than 200 accredited zoos and aquariums and partner organizations in America have a well-developed system of exchanging animals between facilities, and providing care for all animals; Finally when an animal needs medical care, or in limited cases must be euthanized, the procedures are carried out in humane and professional settings, following professional veterinary guidelines that respect the dignity and welfare of the animal.”



There is of course a case for limiting in-breeding on grounds of health and diversity but Copenhagen Zoo in this case, is proud of its policy to allow its captive population to breed as it would in the wild. However, this is not the reasoning given for the death of the Lion family, which was culled merely to allow a new male to integrate smoothly and breed more lions. 

Certain pairings should be avoided if the resulting offspring will be culled for un-natural reasons including duplication of DNA.  The African Lions are not on EAZA's protected species list, yet the Alpha pair were encouraged to breed.  It does not take a scientist to realise that breeding creates more animals.

The worldwide movement of animals is acceptable to many but despite numerous offers being made by other Zoo's such as Yorkshire Wildlife Park (UK) and even private collections owners, EAZA rejected all attempts to save Marius stating that "the offers did not meet (EAZA's) requirements".  However EAZA is unclear about what requirements they had in mind for Marius or his body.

On the Executive Office Board of EAZA is ISIS European Regional Coordinator, Sander Cozijn. [3]  
The ISIS website states: 
“It is the mission of ISIS to facilitate international collaboration in the collection and sharing of knowledge of animals and their environments for zoos and aquariums and related conservation organizations to serve institutional, regional and global animals management and conservation goals.”  [4]

Yet in rejecting all offers, EAZA preferred the culling of an animal rather than let it live out its life (without using him for breeding) either through reintroduction or on an educational safari.  He was deleted because his parentage was mismanaged and his DNA was of no value to EAZA’s own breeding programme.

This petition calls primarily on the British Governments (as this petition has been started in the UK), the European Parliament and other European Governments to recognise public opinion that EAZA and its members are frivolous with the lives that it earns its money from.   

It also calls for international signatures to encourage co-operation and the obligatory acceptance of offers from legitimate organisations with adequate environment and welfare records, both in and outside of the EU, in order to avoid euthanasia of a healthy surplus animal. Global cooperation is the key to diversity and proper management of captive populations and an understanding of consistently improving welfare and enrichment in captive environments.

"  At the time of the death of Marius, Copenhagen’s scientific director, Bengt Holst, said it was working to maintain “a healthy giraffe population in European zoos.”

“This is done by constantly ensuring that only unrelated giraffes breed so that inbreeding is avoided. If an animal’s genes are well represented in a population further breeding with that particular animal is unwanted,” he said in a statement.  "


Naturally breeding in captivity should be monitored and managed.  However, this quote is from a statement made on the Zoo's website and later in the statement Mr Holst appears to contradict this:  
"In Copenhagen Zoo we let the animals breed naturally.”


Suitable matches are selected to ensure diversity. The very fact that Marius's DNA was not of benefit to a diverse breeding programme shows that if the Zoo does indeed "ensure that only unrelated [animals] breed", as Mr Holst claims, then there has been a mistake in the management that resulted in an animal’s life being of "no further value".

"  The Zoo's chief executive, Steffen Straede, said " The Zoo is recognised worldwide for our work with Lions, and I am proud that one of the Zoo's own brood now forms the centre of a new pride of Lions".   "


Which also sounds contradictory as the Lion cubs, if not also their parents, were bred at the Zoo.  The timing of the cull of the adults, meant that the cubs were doomed too. 

"  In a statement, Copenhagen Zoo said it "had" to put down the lions to make room for the new, nearly three-year-old male, saying it would not have been accepted by the pride if the older male - aged 16 - were still around.
The cubs were put also put down because they were not old enough to fend for themselves and would have been killed by the new male lion "anyway", officials said."


This is extremely wasteful and sends a confusing message in a world struggling against poaching, the trade of animal parts etc.  If these animals are to be valued, we must treat the entire global population equally.  

Furthermore the question of diversity -vs- conservation asks: if we were faced with a population of say two individuals, would we try to save the species?  If so, inbreeding would be impossible to avoid for a number of generations.  

Bengt Holst also said: We cannot just expand the Zoo – we have to realise, ‘Ok, what do we do with the surplus?’  



At Magdeburg Zoo near Berlin, staff were prosecuted for the unlawful killing of three Siberian Tiger cubs. After pairing two adults, it was discovered the resulting cubs would be hybrids as the father who was not purebred had not been correctly genetically profiled.  

The Judge declared that “pedigree was not an acceptable reason to kill an animal”.  The cubs were lethally injected as soon as the female gave birth – causing further distress to a new mother with nothing to nurse.

The World Zoo Federation in Berne, Switzerland leapt to the defence of its colleagues saying it was normal to cull surplus animals.



It is worth remembering that Copenhagen Zoo is limited in its actions by EAZA and as such whilst the Zoo has come under most media coverage the association which controls it and its policies must be held equally if not more accountable.

EAZA are happy with the reasoning made by their member and the outcome and have issued a statement on their website, attempting to shift 100% culpability onto the zoo: 

"The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) has been informed of the humane cull of four lions at Copenhagen Zoo Monday.  African lions breed well and do not fall under the remit of an EAZA breeding programme at this current time.   [The lions are allowed to breed but the resulting cubs would hold no value]
"The Association notes that Copenhagen Zoo has not broken any of its codes of conduct,  [set by EAZA]  and that the zoo has been consistent in its approach to animal population management, and high standards of animal welfare. "Copenhagen Zoo takes an approach that good welfare in the pride is stimulated and enhanced by natural cycles of reproduction and the cub rearing is an essential part of pride activity.  
"As a result, while EAZA regrets the death of the animals in question, we recognize the right of Copenhagen Zoo to humanely cull them in line with their policies."  
[as regulated by EAZA] 

EAZA also adds in its Euthanasia Statement [6] " We are committed to providing a full explanation and justification of these principles to the public and the media and to support the actions of colleagues in other EAZA member collections within the limits of the applicable national legislation.”

*EAZA disagreed with the Judge over Madgeburg Zoo prosecutions;
*its Executive Director Lesley Dickie said accurate record keeping over zoo deaths was not always possible;
* the most recent publicly available record of figures in its Yearbook is for 2007/08 (six years ago). [2]


Twitter:   #antiZOOcull


To object to a second "surplus" young Giraffe also named Marius being culled:

To object to EAZA members killing surplus animals:

Search for "EAZA" / "Copenhagen Zoo" / "Conservation"

Further sources:








[8]  WARNING, content images may be upsetting.


COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 1999/22/EC  (29 March 1999) relating to the keeping of wild animals in zoos


Simon Tonge: 44 (0)1803 697502 

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