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Marius, a male giraffe, lies dead before being dissected, after he was put down at Copenhagen Zoo on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014.

Marius, a healthy male giraffe, lies dead after he was euthanized at Copenhagen Zoo on February 9, 2014. Visitors, including children, were invited to watch while the giraffe was dissected.

PHOTOGRAPH BY PETER HOVE OLESEN, POLFOTO via AP  

Roff Smith

for National Geographic

Published February 10, 2014

On Sunday morning, shortly after a last meal of his favorite rye bread, an otherwise healthy 18-month-old male giraffe named Marius was killed with a slaughterhouse bolt gun at the Copenhagen Zoo.

Afterward, zoo officials performed a three-hour-long demonstration of how to butcher a giraffe before a large crowd of visitors, including many children. The meat was then fed to the zoo's lions.

"When breeding success increases it is sometimes necessary to euthanize," Bengt Holst, the zoo's scientific director, said in a statement on the giraffe's death. "We see this as a positive sign and as insurance that we in the future will have a healthy giraffe population in European zoos."

Marius's death and very public dismemberment sparked outrage on social media, prompted death threats against staff at the zoo, and was seen by some animal lovers as provocative response to a campaign to spare the giraffe's life in the days and hours leading up to his death.

An online petition asking the Copenhagen Zoo to hold off on killing its unwanted giraffe until an alternate home could be found for him received over 27,000 signatures from around the world but was ignored by the zoo. So were offers by wildlife parks in Britain, Sweden, and the Netherlands to take Marius off their hands rather than see him killed.

Photo of the lions in Copenhagen Zoo eating the remains of a healthy young giraffe named Marius.
PHOTOGRAPH BY KASPER PALSNOV, AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Lions at Copenhagen Zoo eat the remains of the euthanized young giraffe.

Inbreeding Worries

Officials at the Copenhagen Zoo, on the other hand, maintain they had no real alternatives to euthanizing Marius because he could play no role in their breeding program or in any other breeding program in Europe, due to the risk of inbreeding.

"Copenhagen Zoo's giraffes are part of an international breeding programme which aims at ensuring a healthy giraffe population in European zoos. This is done by constantly ensur[ing] that only unrelated giraffes breed so that inbreeding is avoided," Holst said in the statement.

"If an animal's genes are well represented in a population further breeding with that particular animal is unwanted. As this giraffe's genes are well represented in the breeding programme and as there is no place for the giraffe in the Zoo's giraffe herd the European Breeding Programme for Giraffes has agreed that Copenhagen Zoo euthanize the giraffe." The European Breeding Programme for Giraffes oversees zoo populations in the European Union.

Holst added that the zoo regularly has to cull surplus animals and that the need to euthanize the giraffe pointed to an overall successful breeding program for giraffes.

Castration or chemical birth control, Holst said, would not have been useful options. Marius's place in the zoo would be better served by a giraffe whose genes would add to the diversity of the population, he said.

Sanctuary Denied

Others are less convinced. "I can't believe it," said Robert Kruijif, director of a wildlife park in the Netherlands, who made a last-minute offer to take Marius rather than have him put down. "We offered to save his life. Zoos need to change the way they do business."

Staff at England's Yorkshire Wildlife Park made a similar offer over the weekend, citing their state-of-the-art giraffe facilities that had space for an additional male giraffe, and the fact that they had accepted one of the Copenhagen Zoo's surplus giraffes as recently as 2012. They later released a statement saying they were "saddened" to learn of Marius's death but declined to comment further.

The international furor over the death of the giraffe was in stark contrast to the relatively low-key reaction to the euthanizing of six healthy lions at Britain’s Longleaf Safari Park the same day. The park received criticism on its Facebook page, but nothing on the level of opprobrium, let alone death threats, that staff at the Copenhagen Zoo received.

A great deal of outrage was voiced about the death of the giraffe on Twitter:

The Guardian

Marius The Giraffe

James Bennet

The old petition to save Marius closed on news of his death. A new petition—to sack Bengt Holst as scientific director of the Copenhagen Zoo—was started this morning and now has more than 2,000 signatures.

1005 comments
robert WILSON
robert WILSON

I can partially understand the reason behind it but not in full view of youngsters and squimish stomachs it should have been carried out behind closed doors. Offers to see the procedure, descreet signs etc should have been used i think. I say they should have listenend to the various appeals and answered them.Or were they showing they dont need outside butchers. They could have advertised what there intentions were first.

Daezare Fifer
Daezare Fifer

That just further proves my point that humans are most of the time unappreciative of life either it being the life of a human or the life of an animal that did absolutely nothing to put anyone in harms way. For children to come and watch this for fun and an "educational experience"  is just sick. Im disgusted. 

Joyce Oliveras
Joyce Oliveras

That's just really rude and to think that kids where watching this!! The zoo had no reason to kill that giraffe!!

Rene Rodriguez
Rene Rodriguez

It saddens me of the lack of compassion of the directors of the zoo;  To take the life of a healthy animal makes no sense: zoos need to be better regulated to prevent the slaughter of healthy animals. We are in an era that is seeing many species going extinct, these zoos are definitely helping   that extinction process!!!!!!! 

James Baker
James Baker

Why is it better to feed lions meat from farm animals than from surplus giraffes?  Why is maintaining genetic diversity in a tiny worldwide zoo population not a valid part of conservation?

Maisie Lightfoot-Ali
Maisie Lightfoot-Ali

This whole thing is so awful, it's sickening... the Giraffe, the Lions, and the Longleat Lions put down in UK, all completely avoidable with responsible management. So why wasn't that the case, and how did it come to this, when there were offers from other Zoo's and Wildlife Parks to take the animals? Surely Zoo's and Wildlife Parks are accountable, or are they a law unto themselves and not responsible to anyone or anything for their actions. It's not right! Am disgusted and saddened by these events, haven't visited a zoo or animal holding facility, (which is probably a more accurate description), in many years, and now I'm reminded of why!! And where was the Royal Society For The Protection Of Animals (RSPCA) in all of this??

They could have been released into the wild, their natural environments, for God's sake, even if born in captivity, at least that way they'd die of natural causes, not like this... 

Janet Distler
Janet Distler

I will bring ruin to those ruining the earth,Revelation in the bible. These worldly governements are wicked and cruel to animals. Mankind will suffer for their cruelty. As an artist,I love all animals.God will bring another Noah's Ark.Only the animals and good people will be on it.,Janet Distler,St.Pete.Fl.

Zuleika Rodriguez
Zuleika Rodriguez

This breaks my heart i was just looking for an article to do a school research paper and found a bunch of different things but i believe in god and he has something coming back at that zoo for what they did to him they could of gave him to someone else or let him out in the wild i hope they close that zoo and transfer the animals somewhere else and no one should go to that zoo i know i wouldn't they deserve to be punished against animal cruelty

Zuleika Rodriguez
Zuleika Rodriguez

This breaks my heart i was just looking for an article to do a school research paper and found a bunch of different things but i believe in god and he has something coming back at that zoo for what they did to him they could of gave him to someone else or let him out in the wild i hope they close that zoo and transfer the animals somewhere else and no one should go to that zoo i know i wouldn't they deserve to be punished i am really against animal cruelty

Jeanette Burnet
Jeanette Burnet

How horribly unkind. Is that what u teach ur children to dispose of unwanted live animals in which they have nothing to offer in your eyes? Remember what Hitler did. Ur no different. Next thing u will be putting down old people +mentally children b cause they have nothing to contribute .

Jasmin Lim
Jasmin Lim

This is horrible. How could inbreeding be the sole reason of the death of this giraffe? I was trying to convince myself that the Copenhagen Zoo was really trying to think things through until I read another article about them killing healthy lions. I was like 'wth are these guys doing?' They should have just looked for an alternate home instead. And how sick are they to let people watch the giraffe get dissected?

amanda hsieh
amanda hsieh

1. you shouldn't kill inocent creatures just for better breeding success

2. the giraffe wasn't doing anything bad

3. would you want to be killed just because of your genes??!!

4. why in front of childeren? they only wanted to see animals. not dead animals. i would have been traumatized if i saw this.

5. they must not have a heart for doing this

Beverly Hall
Beverly Hall

I don't believe euthanization was the correct word for Maruis' demise.  Slaughter is more like it.  How sad for this lovely creature. 

Beverly Hall
Beverly Hall

I don't believe the correct word for Maruis' demise was euthanization. It was outright slaughter. How sad.

Mario Lanza
Mario Lanza

Not to worry about giraffe meat being fed to lions. 

The lions have been killed too. Two of them were little cubs. 

 This is a satanic cult disguised as a zoo. 

habil jiruwala
habil jiruwala

This is saddening, first you control the animals environment by taking them out from the wild where they are meant to be and then you keep them behind bars like prisoners in your control and then you kill them because they dont fit into one of your programs.. what a disgrace to our human race. Karma will get you 

Engr Paroya
Engr Paroya

I would only say that it should not be done in front of children and common visitors.
Yes we fell sorry about the giraffe...

But think guys what lions eat MEAT na? so where that meat will come ? :)
lions will kill somebody or we kill somebody and give meat to them... its a LIFE cycle we cant do much about it....!!

even in the jungle they lions kill so many animals so what !! :/

Cameron Maclean
Cameron Maclean

I am absolutely disgusted with this sadistic behaviour by the zoo. i dont care what you want from your breeding progam you have no right to take an innocent animals life simpy because of some genetics. i am so mad at them right now i cant even explain it properly.shame on you

Arun Suresh
Arun Suresh

How is this different from Auschwitz ?

Uzziah Gonzales
Uzziah Gonzales

I agree with Carol, the zoo director must be a psycho.. he was given many chances to spare the the animal's life but no he wanted to see an animal die and get mutilated and he probably enjoys it so much that he invited people to watch it with him. This is sad very very sad. I just lost faith in humanity.

Carol Rowe
Carol Rowe

Maybe the zoo director is a psychopath, there is more to animal "life" than just a breeding program

S. Kang
S. Kang

This is horrible..I mean, not to mention all the other animals like dogs that are being put to sleep every minute..

Crystal Sauceda
Crystal Sauceda

What is wrong with people with today :( poor Marius. 

How could the zoo staff let the kids watch a dismembering

Maria-Elena Cloherty
Maria-Elena Cloherty

I think the best thing folks can do now is to boycott the Copenhagen Zoo, until such time that they change their revolting, self-serving practices!!!!  Best revenge is NO BUSINESS FOR THEM!!!

Cherye Riggs
Cherye Riggs

Outrageously unnecessary! U should have given him to another zoo. Having children watch the dissection should cause several persons to lose job and serve some time, or do ALOT of public service.

Lori Ann Isagawa
Lori Ann Isagawa

I think this was a sad and brutal situation. This perfectly, healthy giraffe didn't deserve death. "Shame on you, Copenhagen Zoo". What are you trying to teach our children in reality? Put yourself in this giraffes shoes. You couldn't even come close to know what this animal was feeling at the time. I'm sorry but there is no excuse to Copenhagen Zoo for taking Marius and putting him to death". I love all animals. It's God's Creation. Get Real People!

Kristy Mayhew-Powell
Kristy Mayhew-Powell

I am disgusted by this disregard for a lovely, perfectly healthy being.  What kind of message does this send to our next generation about kindness, compassion, and respect for life?  Appalled...

Noorah Ahmed
Noorah Ahmed

That's absolutely wrong. What a waste. Animals under humans care can't protect themselves of their decisions. It couldn't protect himself from being killed. And if they can't take care of it any other solution was recommended but killing.

Animals do suffer from humans irresponsible acts harming their inhabitants and when a healthy giraffe is being killed for nothing what do you call that?!!

I think every child must learn about this sad story so when they grow they don't harm creatures as a lot of people right now do.

Amanda King
Amanda King

It is almost every zoos mission now; to boost the numbers of animals that are going extinct. Year after year we hear about animals that are endangered and how zoos are helping support the population. But Copenhagen Zoo's actions that day, and indeed the actions of Longleaf Safari Park, is a prime example of the zoos that are not helping. If we are to even hope to control the actions of poachers and hunters, we first need to control the actions of our breeding programs.

Chris Odlum
Chris Odlum

After reading about this unfortunate and outrageous event, I feel the need to post my own comment. I can't understand why the Copenhagen zoo decided to kill the animal instead of giving it to one of the many institutions that wanted it, although financial considerations was probably the deciding factor. It was probably cheaper to kill it and feed it to the lions, than ship it to a wildlife refuge that wanted it. And, as a bonus, draw a crowd by putting on a show of death and mutilation. Sort of reminiscent of the Nazi era.


This is just one example of what the human species does, by putting financial gain over land and wildlife considerations, thereby  placing the global biosphere under dire stress.

Erin Tucker
Erin Tucker

What I don't truly understand about this whole thing is if the outcome of a breeding (Marius and the six lions from the British zoo) are not genetically important, then why was the breeding allowed in the first place? Are we not, as people, responsible for the care of the animals in our "possession"? I believe this includes any offspring that occur from a breeding. If  they knew that Marius would never have the genetics to be put in the "breeding program" then his parents should never have been bred. I find it difficult to imagine that  this animal had 18 months of life and the only outcome that the director of the zoo could come up with for this "unwanted" animal was euthanasia.

SymothyD Shadow
SymothyD Shadow

This really hurts. I'm disgusted by these people's actions :c

manish sharma
manish sharma

So with the same logic, why not the zoo officials are killed if their genes are not found worthy for maintaining the diversity of human genes?

This decision was insane provided that the zoo had many options to rehabilitate Marius.
 They killed it just to cut the meat budget for the lions?

And what was the need to kill it in the front of visitors and children I don't understand.

Lana Brooks
Lana Brooks

I hope all zoos that "euthanize"  their animals get the same media attention this giraffe received. I am disgusted by Coppenhagen Zoo's breeding and slaughtering program, but very sad the lions in Britain's safari park received no media attention. All European zoos breeding and euthanizing animals needs more media attention and outrage.  Breeding then killing animals is unethical.  If they had a surplus of lions and giraffes then why where they bred in the first place?  Absolutely irresponsible. 

Jeanette Burnet
Jeanette Burnet

U have to wonder what kind of parent would allow a child to see that? They should have their heads examined. It was poor judgmen and so was urs. I wonder if their children r damaged now? Hitler believed in a better race. Isn't that what ur doing?

Vanessa Thomson
Vanessa Thomson

I understand the life cycle of species, but this is still no reason for cruelty!!!!!!

Vanessa Thomson
Vanessa Thomson

Exactly, i would just like to know what were they actually gaining by this, is the question?

Vanessa Thomson
Vanessa Thomson

Yes, very sad, if only there was a solution to every problem :(

Vanessa Thomson
Vanessa Thomson

Whatever action is taken against this would make a difference for future mishaps...but it cannot change the "damage" that has already been done.

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