National Geographic Daily News
Picture taken on Febuary 7, 2014 shows a perfectly healthy young giraffe named Marius who was shot dead and autopsied in the presence of visitors to the gardens at Copenhagen zoo on February 9, 2014 despite an online petition to save it signed by thousands of animal lovers. Marius, an 18-month-old giraffe, was put down with a bolt gun early on Sunday, zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro confirmed.

Despite an online petition to save the animal, Marius the giraffe was shot dead and later autopsied in front of a crowd at the Copenhagen Zoo on February 9, 2014.

PHOTOGRAPH BY KELD NAVNTOFT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Virginia Morell

for National Geographic

Published February 12, 2014

When Marius, a young male giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo, was shot to death by his keepers a few days ago, the world caught its breath. How could the zoo and Marius's keepers do such a thing—particularly when people around the world were clamoring for the zoo to spare him?

Zoos, most of us think, are meant as safe havens for animals, places where they are loved and protected. Zoos tell us that they are educational places, too, where we can watch and learn about creatures we might otherwise never have a chance to see.

Zoos also bill themselves as the only places where certain highly endangered species, such as the Hawaiian crow, survive.

Indeed, zoos say this is why we need zoos. They're the guardians of some of Earth's rarest species, caring for them in captivity, and breeding them with the hopes of one day restoring them to the wild. Zoos, we're told, are one of the best ways—and in some cases, the only way—to preserve a species and its genetic variability. (Read "Building the Ark" in National Geographic magazine.)

So why, then, would a zoo kill a healthy, young giraffe?

Bengt Holst, the Copenhagen Zoo's scientific director, offered answers, but these only caused more alarm. It turns out that Marius's species, the reticulated giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata), is not endangered in the wild. Plus, the zoo has a "surplus" of giraffes, especially males with genes similar to those of Marius. He did not fit into the zoo's captive breeding program, or that of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. And at 18 months old, past the cute stuffed-toy stage of a baby giraffe, Marius would soon be keen to mate.

According to the zoo's calculations, Marius was of more use to it dead than alive.

So, Marius's keeper lured him with a piece of rye bread, his favorite food, into a yard away from the other giraffes, and as he bent down his long neck to take the treat from his keeper's hand, a veterinarian dispatched him with a shot from a bolt gun to his head.

Zoo patrons, including children, were then permitted to watch and learn about giraffe anatomy as the vet butchered Marius. "It helps increase the knowledge about animals but also the knowledge about life and death," said Holst about the anatomy lesson. The giraffe's remains were subsequently tossed into the lions' den—which, some have said, would likely have been his fate anyway if Marius had lived in his natural environment, the African savannah.

What Is the Purpose of Zoos?

Yes ... but Marius was not living in the African savannah. He was living in a zoo, one that asserts that its mission is to be "known and respected for its high standards and quality regarding the keeping of animals," and for its ethics.

All of which raises some questions: Why is the zoo breeding reticulated giraffes, when they are not endangered in the wild? And why did they let Marius's parents mate?

For answers, you need look no further than the Copenhagen Zoo's Facebook page, where it celebrates the birth of a baby giraffe (possibly Marius) in 2012. Humans, science has shown, are drawn to babies of all kinds; we love the big eyes, the floppy limbs, the fluff and fuzz of infants. Baby leopards, baby pandas, baby elephants ... baby giraffes. They all draw huge, paying crowds to zoos.

And while the Copenhagen Zoo, and other European Union zoos, may celebrate themselves as conservation sanctuaries protecting animals on the threshold of extinction, a 2011 report from the Born Free Foundation tells a different story: "An average of only 13% of species kept in European zoos were classified as Globally Threatened" and on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List of Threatened Species.

So, if these zoos aren't really engaged in conserving species as they claim, what is their purpose?

In full view of the general public a zoo vet carries out an autopsy on a perfectly healthy young giraffe named Marius who was shot dead and at Copenhagen zoo on Febuary 9, 2014” width=
PHOTOGRAPH BY KASPER PALSNOV, AFP/GETTY IMAGES
A zoo veterinarian holds up a hoof as he performs an autopsy on the euthanized 18-month-old giraffe Marius.

Very likely the keepers and veterinarians and director at the Copenhagen Zoo all consider themselves animal lovers. They do the hard, often heartbreaking, work of caring for creatures destined to a life in captivity. And they serve another master: profitability.

Inevitably, the two motives will clash; one must betray the other, because caring for zoo animals, especially those that are long-lived, is an expensive undertaking. Zoos have limited space, and if a zoo attempts to give animals the experience of parenting, as the Copenhagen Zoo says it does, it's going to run out of room. It will soon have too many adult animals and not enough of those popular, crowd-drawing, profit-turning babies.

Genetics and the carefully planned breeding program aside, it's hard not to suspect that the real reason Marius had to die was simply that he was past his human-appealing prime.

Broken Trust

I have no doubt that the animal keepers and veterinarians at the Copenhagen Zoo work hard to find ways for the animals in their care to learn to trust them. I've watched the gorilla and chimpanzee keepers at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago care for their charges, and have some idea of the long hours they must devote to this task.

I've also seen how willing and ready young animals are to trust us.

Once, on Equatorial Guinea's Bioko Island, a baby tree hyrax (which looks something like a large guinea pig) came bursting out of the bushes—not to get away from a group of us humans, but to seek our care. (Later, we found his dead mother.) If we'd been another kind of primate, we would have eaten the hyrax. Instead, we scooped him up, nursed him as best we could, and took him to a small animal shelter.

Of course, humans don't always respond this way to needy, young animals. But we think that is what the people running zoos do.

And so our hearts were broken when we saw the keepers at the Copenhagen Zoo break their trust with Marius. He should never have died so young and at the hands of his caretakers, the very ones who should have done all they could to protect him.

Zoos may feel that it is necessary to bill themselves as big players on the conservation stage. But what most of us want to see from zoos and their keepers is compassion for their charges, all of whom live such narrow, corralled lives.

If zoos cannot offer this to the Mariuses in their care, they will lose the public's goodwill, and will deservedly find themselves heading toward extinction.

Virginia Morell is a correspondent for Science and the author of four acclaimed books. Her newest, Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures, has received several honors, including a Notable Book for 2014 award from the American Library Association and a Best Book of the Year designation from Kirkus Reviews. She lives in Oregon with her husband and their working farm collie, Buckaroo.

663 comments
Sonia Alvarado
Sonia Alvarado

Horrific! there is no other way to describe this. I wish zoo's would go the way of freak shows and other inhumane entertainment.

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

Geri O'Hara
Geri O'Hara

It breaks my heart to read of such things. We are all interconnected and interdependent of one another. Things of this nature will have consequences that go beyond this one incident. We are not looking for solutions instead we are taking the easy way out and this was to destroy a beautiful creature that we were suppose to be protecting and caring for?? 

Ryan Mitchell
Ryan Mitchell

I find it sickening that we, as humans, have the audacity to separate ourselves from ‘nature’ and believe our dominance gives us the right to choose whether an animal has the right to life. Rather than the fact that everything that exists for the sake there of, has a right to do so. 

Susu Bella
Susu Bella

It's shocking the things we call love :(( 

Arden Serling
Arden Serling

Is the decision to kill ( excuse me, cull) rather than transfer a committee decision or the work of one man?

Emma Heron-smith
Emma Heron-smith

"better use dead than alive" that is a horrible opinion to have of any living creature let alone one that they had 'cared' for since birth. Makes me sick. 

A. P.
A. P.

Definition: caretaker |ˈke(ə)rˌtākər|

noun 1 a person employed to look after a public building or a house in the owner's absence.• [ as modifier ] holding power temporarily: his was a caretaker regime. 2 a person employed to look after people or animals.


There is an accepted social contract that zoos are allowed to have animals as they caretake animals for education, protection, etc. The decision-making to murder Marius completely -- and perhaps conveniently -- ignored the important role of zoos as caretakers of their "collection." But perhaps this exposes zoos and zookeepers -- at least those in the Copenhagen zoo -- for what they really are: collectors.


The arguments for murdering Marius for some misplaced notion of "protecting the gene pool" of the "collection" is nothing more than misplaced sophistry, the ignorant argument of the arrogant. How can we try to hold to account others for the slaughter of animals for misguided reasons, such as the slaughter of dolphins for the "protection" of fish stocks, should we accept such empty arguments.


These zookeepers must fool themselves each and every day when they look in the mirror and when they tell their family, especially their children, that they are "animal caretakers." "Caretakers" they simply are not. They lack a moral compass to guide their actions.


Consider Hippocrates' overlying principle: "First, do no harm."

Shannon Gallagher-Jones
Shannon Gallagher-Jones

It is not about us being meat-eaters etc.  It is about the principle of a zoo whose mission it is to conserve, killing an animal for an excuse which contradicts Copenhagen Zoo.  All of their reasoning can easily be argued against e.g. castration could have been tried, conservation is about preserving life,  other zoos would have been happy to take 'Marius'... the list is ongoing.  There was no need for the death of 'Marius'...

Joseph Soler
Joseph Soler

The thing that troubles me most is that so many of these people wringing their hands in horror at Marius being killed are probably meat-eaters. Perhaps we should name every cow and pig and chicken we send to slaughterhouses everyday, who are themselves part of a captive breeding program. People are upset because giraffes are cute with long necks. If Marius had been a holstein cow, no one would have named him or cared. Heck, even supermarkets in the US allow us to watch the butchers carving up the meat, as they did at the zoo, and zoos often make a spectacle of the feedings, but in this case, the meat had a name, so we were horrified.


Vegans and vegetarians are, of course, exempt from this critique, because they are consistent in their opposition to these animal spectacles and killings, but the rest of us, please step back and consider what we do everyday that creates "Marius" situations for cows, chickens, sheep, etc, EVERY SINGLE DAY, but hidden behind closed door where we don't have to think about it, or confront the ugly reality of it.


If we really want zoos to focus on conservation, instead of spectacle, we, the public, could commit to going to zoos to see UGLY and unimpressive animals on display, like the thousands of frog species going extinct, or lobby our government to guarantee funding to zoo conservation programs, so that they wouldn't have to stock up on "cute" animals having babies, to drive their ticket sales and stay in business.

Jerry Howe
Jerry Howe

Keeping animals in enclosures (boxes) for the pleasure and education of humans is so 20th century.


Their time has come and gone like Sea World and the organ grinder and his monkey.

Patrick Cummings
Patrick Cummings

What happened to Marius is unbelievable.  I can not stop thinking about the little guy. It's kind of weird though because I can't tell you how much this has bothered me, but at the same time It would not bother me to see Bengt Holst have a bolt gun put to his head and then cut up and fed to the lions.  Better yet, forget the bolt gun just put him in the lion cage and let the lions decide how much he has to offer to the human gene pool. 

Klara Lipton
Klara Lipton

Poachers every day are killing wild animals in Africa. If we take animals out of their natural element, we have to take care of them, until the day they die.  ZOOS are for PEOPLE, not animals. Animal Parks are for animals. They can hide, if they don't want to be seen, not like the ZOO, were they want to be sure, people can see the animal. If they produce too many animals, they MUST find a home for them, even it might take some time. It is called CIVILIZED.

Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson

This is an excellent article Thank you,

This zoo had 2 options one was to listen to the public and offer the animal to the other zoo the second was to slaughter (kill for meat)  the animal.  This zoo made the wrong decision. 


As humans we now have 2 choices one is to  sit back and continue to allow all  zoos and   their governing bodies  to continue with their unnecessary breeding and culling of surplus animals, the second is to speak out and campaign . The Born Free Foundation believes in the successful conservation of wild animals in their natural habitat  has a campaign called zoo check, there is no longer a need for zoos they are merely freak shows for animals and if they were not making a profit they would close their gates.


If you Google close down Copenhagen zoo there is a petition site containing over 134,000 signatures from across the world. 


I have made my decision and I believe it is the right decision.


lisa bean
lisa bean

I understand the want and need to save a life but I fail to see why people are so outraged just because it was a giraffe, no one felt sorry for the cows that are slaughtered to feed the big cats, how is it any different. If anything that year and a half old giraffe had a good life and a good death in comparison to animals farmed for the meat trade. An yes I know there are people out there who protest the meat trade but it doesn't reach global attention within days, it stays rather small scale and hardly gets noticed.

Lynn Hoover
Lynn Hoover

Matthew Murray: I'll try to go point by point.

1) When I used the term "wild animals" I refer to a statement by Dr.

Holst, the lead scientist at the Copenhagen zoo that was responsible for his

care. He said "these are wild animals, not pets".

2) From my/our perspective, Marius was born in captivity and his

caretakers have an ethical obligation to work in his best interests.

3) You write, I don't think the zookeepers take any kind of

Hippocratic oath to "first do no harm." In the U.S. most reputable

veterinarians will refuse to euthanize a healthy animal. We wish the animals

in zoos could be free but console ourselves that at least they are

reasonably safe/protected by the humans who care for them.

4) I agree with your final point about the good of the many often

outweighing the good of the few. But really, little Marius could have lived

on without messing up plans for a pure gene pool for captive giraffes. His

life and our responsibility to him matters first. There are ways around

death. I suspect that, from statements made by the zoo scientists who

spearheaded all of this, they killed Marius because doing so fit with their

philosophy to approach their work as scientists; they want to simulate the

wild where stragglers or otherwise unwanted animals are knocked off. But the

zoos wild animals are not in the wild, they are in a zoo. Have you heard the

saying "can't see the forest through the trees"?

5) Concerning conservation of non-endangered along with endangered

species: we either care that they live or we do not. Don't expect potential

donors to make distinctions about which species are endangered that year and

which are not.

Lynn Hoover
Lynn Hoover

Ned Lee: To my knowledge National Geographic is NOT supporting what the zoo did to Marius. The article above was published as an opinion piece by National Geographic. It seems to side with the giraffe we've grown to love.

Ned Lee
Ned Lee

A UK zoo and OTHER zoos offered to take this giraffe rather than see it heartlessly slaughtered for no reason other than it was too close genetically to the others in their "care".  It was totally sadistic and cruel what this zoo did.  I am not totally surprised that NATGEO would defend this horrendous cruelty.


Here is the link on the UK Zoo that was turned down.


http://www.itv.com/news/2014-02-09/uk-zoo-offers-to-rehome-giraffe-facing-death-in-copenhagen/


I would NEVER support a zoo that is this cruel and sadistic in the OPEN and in front of little kids.  Simply horrendous!

Ned Lee
Ned Lee

A UK zoo and OTHER zoos offered to take this giraffe rather than see it heartlessly slaughtered for no reason other than it was too close genetically to the others in their "care".  It was totally sadistic and cruel what this zoo did.  I am not totally surprised that NATGEO would defend this horrendous cruelty.


Here is the link on the UK Zoo that was turned down.


http://www.itv.com/news/2014-02-09/uk-zoo-offers-to-rehome-giraffe-facing-death-in-copenhagen/


I would NEVER support a zoo that is this cruel and sadistic in the OPEN and in front of little kids.  Simply horrendous!

Ned Lee
Ned Lee

A UK zoo and OTHER zoos offered to take this giraffe rather than see it heartlessly slaughtered for no reason other than it was too close genetically to the others in their "care".  It was totally sadistic and cruel what this zoo did.  I am not totally surprised that NAGEO would defend this horrendous cruelty.

Matthew Murray
Matthew Murray

Lynn, you said that we should "make it difficult for them to exploit and then kill future healthy wild animals in their care." At no point was Marius wild. He was born and (briefly raised in captivity. Killing wild-born animals is something else entirely where it runs the risk of altering some kind of ecosystem. 


Further more, I don't think the zookeepers take any kind of Hippocratic oath to "first do no harm."


And if you refer to the article, reticulated giraffes are under no kind of watch. Conversationalists solicit resources to save animals that are at risk of extinction. It's kind of apples and oranges. It's not as if they killed on of the <45 Javan rhino left in the world. So killing an animal, who's species is on no endangered watch list and is at little risk of extinction, interferes with the larger plan to preserve animals species that actually stand a reasonable chance of going extinct, makes sense. It's the classic "the good of the many out weigh the good of the few." 


What is one giraffe out of hundreds of thousands if it could potentially save one rhino out of 45? It might not have been in the best interest of Marius, but it may have been in the best interest of the rest of the animal kingdom. 

Matthew Murray
Matthew Murray

Lynn, you said that we should "make it difficult for them to exploit and then kill future healthy wild animals in their care." At no point was Marius wild. He was born and (briefly raised in captivity. Killing wild-born animals is something else entirely where it runs the risk of altering some kind of ecosystem. 


Further more, I don't think the zookeepers take any kind of Hippocratic oath to "first do no harm."


And if you refer to the article, reticulated giraffes are under no kind of watch. Conversationalists solicit resources to save animals that are at risk of extinction. It's kind of apples and oranges. It's not as if they killed on of the <45 Javan rhino left in the world. So killing an animal, who's species is on no endangered watch list and is at little risk of extinction, interferes with the larger plan to preserve animals species that actually stand a reasonable chance of going extinct, makes sense. It's the classic "the good of the many out weigh the good of the few." 


What is one giraffe out of hundreds of thousands if it save one rhino out of 45?

Lynn Hoover
Lynn Hoover

Diane, people from many countries, all over the world, are upset over what Marius' caretakers did to him. This is not just an American response. We must continue our protest world-wide and insist the European zoo association that supported this (EZEA) and the zoo change their policies. We must give meaning to Marius' life by making it difficult for them to exploit and then kill future healthy wild animals in their care. As caretakers they must, like medical doctors, FIRST DO NO HARM. We can make a difference because we care and because we are right. No longer can they appeal to us to save animals when they are exploiting then killing them when their existence interferes with man-made goals.

Now isn't it just crazy that the conservationists ask us relentlessly to contribute money and time to stop the killing of animals in the wild, by exploitative humans......when the so-called conservationists themselves are exploiting and then killing captive wild animals whose existence interferes with their conservation goals? We can dignify Marius' life and bring some good from his death if each of us does what we can to stop the killing by caretakers.

Diane Chatterton
Diane Chatterton

I know this is going to sound crazy but if that second giraffe going to be put down why cant we raise money and buy the giraffe and bring it to America?  I wonder how much it would cost?  Disney World has safaris!  Please dont kill the other giraffe or any other animals!


Lynn Hoover
Lynn Hoover

Jan Schroder:   I appreciate your objectivity and agree with some comments you make but do not agree that our outrage has to do explicity with the giraffe's having a name, which humanizes him in some people's minds. No. We are outraged because Marius' *caretakers* arranged this solution for him. It would be like going to a doctor and most of us have the expectation and trust that the doctor will, first, cause no harm, and will at every step act in our best interests...and the doctor decides to end our life because he is the manager of such things and he thinks a final solution is the best solution...when the rest of us can envision acceptable alternatives that do not involve death. That is the crux of it: the zoo violated its "contract" with the animal and with all of us who expect zoos to at minimum act in their captive animal's best interests and do what they can to ensure their survival.

On a personal level, I wish you and the zoo staff and the EAZA scientists well but you are all WRONG and this one act, barbarian in our view, has changed the world's perception of zoo's and so-called conservation efforts. 

Jan Schrøder
Jan Schrøder

As much as I try to understand some of the arguments and statements a lot of you make here, I simply can't make any sense of it. A lot of you read a lot into the picture from the autopsy, that I cannot see. I do not see the vet smiling for instance, and I do not expect him to grow horns anytime soon. Some of you claim that the reason why no oneelse in the picture is smiling is because they are horrified and others claim everyone who goes to Copenhagen Zoo are sadistic evil persons. Why then are they not smiling in the picture?

I think most of you think with your heart instead of your mind. You make putting a giraffe down the equivalent of murder, simply because it has a name? I think your views are misled, but I respect your right to have and voice them. I would however like you to watch this video and explain to me, how this, in any way is better, than what the zoo did to the giraffe:

http://myscienceacademy.org/2013/08/19/without-saying-a-word-this-6-minute-short-film-will-make-you-speechless/

I hope you are as outraged about this or more than the giraffes fate. Anything else would be utter hypocracy.

Anika Mears
Anika Mears

Yes, agree whole heartedly with this article! I agree, I too think it's because he was past the baby stage. I took a long look through Copenhagen Zoos Facebook page, and it is filled with photos of baby animals. If you look at their Facebook page, you can also see in November 2013 (less than 3 months ago) they had another giraffe born. So, I take it this is the replacement for Marius, and who knows what fate this baby will meet when it grows up.


I've also read that many other zoos use contraception, or simply separate animals they do not want to breed, why could Copenhagen Zoo not do this? Oh, that's right, they claim animals should be allowed to breed. But apparently, not allowed to live.

And the claim to me of this public autopsy being 'educational' is just ridiculous. It is only educational to scientists. Other adults, and especially children, have no need to know about a giraffes anatomy. What good is it going to do them? I bet the kids learnt nothing from it. I think more likely, it is a case of parents with a sick, morbid curiosity to see a giraffe being cut up. And don't get me wrong, I studied anatomy at college and university, I am very interested in it. But I think this autopsy should have just been done in private.


I also wish they would stop using the term 'euthanasia' in relation to this. They killed him, and not because he was in pain or suffering. In those instances, I think it is acceptable.

Annij Joe
Annij Joe

I am morally outraged. Words as colourful as a giraff's coat would never express my rage. I really believe after this sick and brutal behaviour by the zoo staff, the whole zoo should be boycotted. Of course that would mean the rest of the animals would be euthanized, but there really should be a movement away from zoos and toward animal reseves and parks, where if tourists want to see animals in their natural habitat they could do so on a well protected bus tour. The self sanctimonious attitude by the zoo staff is revolting. I am speechless.

Ford Tempo & Mercury Topaz Conservation Guild
Ford Tempo & Mercury Topaz Conservation Guild

This is one of the few worthwhile articles I have read on this subject, everyone else seems to miss the point and fail to get to the bottom of why this happened. This article  makes total sense.


Leaving aside all the "worse things happening in the world" stuff, this is different because a zoo killing a healthy animal feels about as right  as having your car repossessed by your gran, and the reasons given for the killing just don`t seem good enough - I`ve read countless explanations as to why there was no other way and the story does not stack up properly, it all makes sense until near the end when it all just seems a bit extreme and disproportionate, then along comes this article, and the penny drops....It turns out this giraffe was screwed over in the name of big business, that old chestnut!


Marius the giraffe seemingly was a luckless fall-guy, stitched up as part of a grand plan he had no idea about. I know how that feels, so I`m on his side, to hell with the zoo and it`s agenda and it`s big design to create a master race of giraffes or maximise space for giraffes that have more to offer like it`s the sodding X-factor or whatever other charmless, unfeeling reasons were given as justification for this sorry little scene.


There`s no need to go into what this country or that country does or doesn`t do to these people or those animals or whatever, this isn`t about having a pop at Denmark because it isn`t about Denmark, it`s about one zoo, and one incident at  said zoo, which involved a poor giraffe.. In simple terms, it`s a story about how one zoo in Copenhagen turned out to be a shower of b******. 

Lynn Hoover
Lynn Hoover

Jan Schroeder:The zoo scientists are right to not allow inbreeding. But at least one of the animal centers that offered to take Marius would be considered highly reliable by most objective observers--I did some research. It's age-old for humans to say "it can't be done", and to let the perfect become the enemy of the good when what they are really saying is "if its not done to our standard its not ok to do it to another standard because our standards are so great". There is a big world out there and, from my personal experience, a variety of ways to keep animals happy and, as regards Marius the trusting giraffe, would render a relaxed, contented animal.

I have rehomed many animals and I am a resourceful person and am so used to encountering "it can't be done". I can say with confidence, ‘if I were there and had governance over Marius I'd have found him a suitable alternate environment’, no doubt over the objections of anxious overseers for whom the death of the animal is the least risky option.

Animals are sentient (feeling) beings. The fact they can't anticipate what harm we are going to bring upon them does not absolve us of responsibility for their survival. WE know what harm we will do to them and we know when we do the right thing and protect rather than demolish. We are responsible for getting them to a safe harbor, not dead.

E N.
E N.

Nezam Nobari In civilized societies we must fund animal sanctuaries and change the rules so that the zoos are more ethical and humane. Animals in the care of zoos shouldn't be labeled "surplus genetic material" or seen as an externality, worthy of death in the breeding programs. Perhaps zoos shouldn't even have breeding programs for species that aren't threatened. The savagery in nature as it relates to the food chain is no excuse for animal cruelty and killing of zoo animals in the name of conservation. Conservation biology should consider cultural norms and the values of the societies it functions in rather than ignoring these sentiments and thousands of petitions and lable them as emotional and irrational. What's irrational is ignoring human sentiment and emotions in response to savagery and misallocation of public interest and animal welfare. Expert may know population biology but people judge ethical conduct and define what is right. Good management means harmonizing the two efforts. It's not a contradiction to value the lives of zoo animals differently than those grown for human sustenance. As a society we value different organisms differently and the conservation rules should reflect this. No "expert" should function outside the boundary set by public sentiment. After all, what's conservation if we are going to lose our humanity in the process. Euthanasia should only be reserved for the gravely ill and suffering animals. Killing a healthy giraffe and calling it euthanasia is as ridiculous as a steakhouse calling itself an animal sanctuary. European zoos can learn a lesson or two from the no-kill dog shelters and the regulations relating to animals in zoos should follow animal welfare laws applied to pets and not the slaughterhouses. Eating chickens doesn't mean that you can't care about the plight of dolphins in Japan or giraffes in Europe. Environmentalism and caring for the ethical treatment of animals is older than the current vegetarian fashion. Caring for Giraffe doesn’t mean that we don’t care about the Syrians. If anything people who care for the Syrians the most are likely the same people who also care about the killing of healthy giraffes. Good people are often good in more than one instance of injustice. Women deciding and planing their reproductive health and choice and the seeming controversy this brings should also not be used a distraction from animal welfare. Reproductive choices of women and civil wars are valid concerns in their own right but they are as irrelevant to animal welfare as one’s choice to play the flute and still want to stop a giraffe from being killed. Zoos should not be in the business of food production, teaching the innate savagery of the food chain, or conducting dissections and public anatomy classes. There are wildlife documentaries, safaris and veterinary schools for that. The rules of EAZA are outdated and naively ignores all the costs and benefits of their blind bureaucracy. Alienating the animal loving public from the zoos will cut their funding and will endanger even more animals and their so called "natural breeding programs." It's unfathomable that the public sentiments and pleas were so easily ignored despite predictable negative public relations ramification. This was a classic case of mismanagement despite all the warnings. EAZA officials and the Copenhagen zoo staff responsible will have to be replaced by competent staff they are too corrupted to change the new holistic and systems approach to environmental management where key stakeholders aren’t ignored. Conservation biology can be indeed brutal and difficult choices will have to be made at times but it doesn't have to intentionally be made worse by denying willing sanctuaries to salvage what life they can compassionately. In a world where compassion is often scarce we should take care not to pass on any offer for saving a life. Instead of boycotting the zoos we must engage them and bring about the change we demand. Boycott the politicians and other businesses instead to bring about a political will for no kill zoos and sanctuaries. Hurt the people financially but spare the captive animals in this process. Write the Danish embassies and tell them you're not vacationing there and see their calculus change over time.

victor knopp
victor knopp

,hey jonass .in your case it will be done economically,,,

Virginia G.
Virginia G.

Unbelievable... it's human instinct to take care of animals, goes back in the days of Adam and Eve when God told them to take care of 'every living creatures on earth.' 


I can't believe their reasoning on why they can't release them in the wild.  They are claiming that chances of survival is from slim to none.  At least give them a chance to fight for their lives and live!  The baby giraffe never had that chance...


It is so sad this is how they handle their animals... it so primitive and full of ignorance.  Animals are so dependent on people as they were created that way, and killing them just to get rid of them because it's inconvenient is not the way to go.  There are so many options, and certainly this is the worst kind.  With all the comments here and worldwide, I hope they get some sense that this is not the "norm", I can understand if it's for "human" consumption, but there is just no excuse or reasoning that will justify this action! 


M. C
M. C

@lisa bean  

You're right, Lisa.  There is still a lot of cruelty in the way animals are treated in other contexts.  The difference is, this was a zoo.  This is a place for animals.  This is a place where we should look out for their best interests and where the animals can have a voice where they don't in other contexts.  A place that most civilized people think as a 'safe haven' for animals.  CZ obviously sees no difference between what happens every day on a farm for the "meat trade" and the zoo.  We can only conclude, then, that this zoo exists for some other reason than as a safe haven for animals.  It must exist as a place of exploitation and profit and when the animals are no longer profitable and the cost to care for then is too great (or their genes don't match some set of criteria) then it is expendable.  You see, although there will always be animals as part of the meat trade, we have to save a place where the sacredness of ALL life is considered, is valued and is cherished.  Anyone that has bonded with another life, human or non-human KNOWS without a doubt, that there is a sacred bond there.  It is only the heartless, unfeeling people that don't have the capacity to establish such bonds.  Is this a learned trait or is it inborn?   Good question.  If you expose children to only the cruelty of nature, and instill in them the belief that animals have no capacity to feel, trust or form lasting bonds, and that they're just part of the "circle of life", then they have no other expectations unless they allow themselves to experience such connections.  

Tuuli Mäkinen
Tuuli Mäkinen

@Lynn Hoover "It would be like going to a doctor and most of us have the expectation and trust that the doctor will, first, cause no harm, and will at every step act in our best interests...and the doctor decides to end our life because he is the manager of such things and he thinks a final solution is the best solution..."


As happens in veterinary clinics all around the world. You haven't given any logical reason why we should apply such an anthropomorphic standard to zoo animals, but not the other animals in our care. Or why the other alternatives you envision wouldn't also constitute a violation of trust (being taken from his familiar surroundings and shipped to a strange place? castration?)

Ursula D.
Ursula D.

@Lynn Hoover I wish you would be here with a qualified place to home him, I truly do. I also fully understand that you don't appreciate these uncompromising standards of animal welfare. 

But even if you were here, how would you manage to cope? Unless we perform either birth control or culling, your sanctuary will fill up fast, and then we're right back at #1. 

 I believe animals thoughts and feelings to be equally valid, I'm one of those nutters who can't bring myself to killing a tiny insect without feeling bad for hours even though it spoiled my food. But to me this backs up the idea that we cannot compromise on living standards, because they're not in a good spot or able to choose to begin with. Death is gruesome, but it's short and considered humane in many other situations. 

Do you not at all recognize my point that eventually this all boils down to choosing between birth control or culling, and that one might not be universally better than the other?


sunny obrien
sunny obrien

i love the american way of justice. weapons galore. metaldetectors in schools. deathsentences. crime rates that exceeds third world countries. schoolshootings galore.

are you proud?

Virginia G.
Virginia G.

@sunny obrien Read my comment above, maybe you'll learn something.  If you don't like animals, which I'm assuming you don't, then you shouldn't post on this webpage either.  Thank you.

Virginia G.
Virginia G.

@sunny obrien Talking about "ignorance" my dear... "freedom of speech" 1st amendment.  If you don't know what the bible says, then you're limited in your knowledge.  College education isn't enough.  The bible is an all time best selling book, I suggest you get one and read the book of Genesis. :)

Ursula D.
Ursula D.

@Diane Chatterton How do you propose we solve anything if that is how we're going to discuss it? Then I could take great offense in your comment and feel it justified to say equally mean things, that you might believe were escalating the situation. This is how we cause even more hurt and start emotional wars, while removing the focus from animal welfare.

I've already spent way too much time and emotional investment on responding to insults with friendliness and my best intentions of providing further insight. If you truly care about this, there is more information in older comments (on both NatGeo publishings), on the zoos and EAZAs website as well as an interview on youtube. I would never stand in the way of anyone's right to have an opinion, but I'm not going to respect it unless you have your facts straight and argue the point.


By the way, he was a young adult, well past his baby state.

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