National Geographic News
A photo of a lion eating the remains of Marius the giraffe at Copenhagen Zoo.

An unidentified lion eats the remains of Marius the giraffe at Copenhagen Zoo in February.

PHOTOGRAPH BY KASPER PALSNOV, EPA

Christine Dell'Amore

National Geographic

Published March 26, 2014

A Denmark zoo that earned international condemnation for killing a healthy giraffe last month has euthanized four African lions.

The Copenhagen Zoo put down a 16-year-old male lion, a 14-year-old lioness, and two young lions this week to make way for a new male lion from the Givskud Zoo, also in Denmark.

"The change in the lion pride had to happen now because Copenhagen Zoo currently has two young females from the 2012 litter and it is ideal to keep these as part of the new pride and then find a suitable male," the zoo wrote in a Wednesday statement on its website.

"If the Zoo had not made the change in the pride now then we would have risked that the old male would mate with these two females—his own offspring—and thereby give rise to inbreeding," the statement says.

What's more, the 14-year-old lioness was too old to give birth and raise another litter without complications, the zoo said. (Read more about zoos and saving rare species in National Geographic magazine.)

The news quickly reverberated across the globe, with 10,000 stories as of Wednesday and Twitter abuzz with people expressing shock and disgust.

The U.S. Association of Zoos and Aquariums did not respond to requests for comment about zoo euthanasias, but the organization said in a February statement that "incidents of that sort do not happen at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums for several reasons."

That's because those facilities carefully manage breeding programs and exchange animals between institutions as needed, according to the AZA website.

But the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) noted in a statement that the Copenhagen Zoo "has not broken any of its codes of conduct."

Still, by Wednesday morning, 49,000 people had signed a petition on the environmental advocacy website Care2.org entitled "Tell Copenhagen Zoo to Stop Killing Healthy Animals!"

 

 

EAZA said that the Copenhagen Zoo "has been consistent in its approach to animal population management, and high standards of animal welfare.

"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," the statement continued.

Giraffe Death Sparked Outrage

The Copenhagen Zoo's killing and public dismemberment last month of a healthy giraffe that the facility had named Marius also sparked outrage on social media.

The news even prompted death threats against zoo staff, and was seen by some animal lovers as a provocative response to a campaign to spare the giraffe's life in the days and hours leading up to his death. (See "Opinion: Killing of Marius the Giraffe Exposes Myths About Zoos.")

An online petition asking the Copenhagen Zoo to hold off on killing its unwanted giraffe until another home could be found had received tens of thousands of signatures from around the world. Wildlife parks in Britain, Sweden, and the Netherlands had offered to take Marius off the zoo's hands.

"When breeding success increases it is sometimes necessary to euthanize," Bengt Holst, Copenhagen Zoo's scientific director, said in a February 9 statement on their 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."

Follow Christine Dell'Amore on Twitter and Google .

313 comments
Anthony Woods
Anthony Woods

So much for the "morally superior" Europeans, or rather, in this case, the Danes!  Like some criminals' claims of innocence, the this zoo's claim of correct conduct are not credible.

T. Thomas
T. Thomas

Wow. What outrage for the dismemberment of a living being and the euthenasia of four others instead of finding them a new home. Sounds vaguely familiar. Just replace it with human lives and reverse your stance. It seems the zoo has CHOICE here. The animals and millions of innocent babies do not.

Respect all life. Sad situation indeed.

MOHANLAL WICKRAMASINGHE
MOHANLAL WICKRAMASINGHE

very inhumane. should have given another zoo or put back in the wild. funds would have been raised to put them back in the wild

Ibel Garcia
Ibel Garcia

WTF IS WRONG WITH THIS STUPID ZOO. BRO WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT, MAKE ROOM, MAKE A NEW HABITAT FOR THEM. REALLY WTF IS WRONG WITH YALL. TRANSFER THEM TO ANOTHER ZOO OR FOUNDATIONS. SOMEBODY CHOKE THE SMURF AND CLOSE THEM DOWN!!

Patty Lanenga
Patty Lanenga

Is this the zoos definition of conservation of a species. Why are there not more efforts put forth by these "breeding programs" to return these animals back to the wild instead of being caged up to be gawked at by the public? At least the two young lions could have had a chance and if they died in their natural habitat that is what nature is all about. It sickens me that through all the efforts zoos put to helping a species they would rather kill a healthy animal than to find more appropriate alternative. These European zoos are not God but they certainly are playing him.

Armelda Steel
Armelda Steel

Does breeding success have to be a death sentence for the current zoo residence?  I'm sure many zoos across the world would love to have the animals.  Going forward I hope Copenhagen Zoo will only use euthanasia for the very ill and severly injured animals at the zoo.

Joyce Oliveras
Joyce Oliveras

It makes no sense that they killed FOUR lions to save only ONE lion!!! That is just ridiculous!!!! 

Joyce Oliveras
Joyce Oliveras

Are you kidding me!! These people have no mercy!! First the giraffe now the FOUR lions!!! THERE CRAZY!!!

Karin Hauer
Karin Hauer

Muessen wir wirklich immer gott spielen?

Tempestas
Tempestas

GOOD LORD!!!! What the heck is wrong with people these days!!!! Anyone in the right mind would realize there is something morally corrupt about these incidents. Sure, the zoo can come up with whatever excuse floats their twisted boat and the media's, but either way, they did something utterly sickening and cruel and someone needs to knock some sense into those blockheads!!!!!! 

Brian 'Fisherman' Kavanagh
Brian 'Fisherman' Kavanagh

Everyone in that zoo should lose their jobs. The animals should be moved. And anyone be they individuals or governments that support the zoo should be ashamed and voted out at the next election 

Ina Merritt
Ina Merritt

They could think of no other way? Oh, please!!! How ridiculous and barbaric...and to allow the public to witness the lions feasting on the corpse of the giraffe......OH MY GOD!!!!!!!


I think there should be sanctions imposed against the Copenhagen Zoo. As a breeder of dogs, I always found good homes for my breeding stock when they were either too old or genetically unsafe to use. I'm shocked and truly disgusted by the actions of this zoo.

Stacia Jones
Stacia Jones

I wish we could finally get some sort of answer as to why European zoos consider it ethical to breed animals they know are "surplus" and will not need. It seems as though it would be more economical and ethical to prevent surplus animals like Marius and the two lion cubs. It's cynical, but I wonder if it's more economical to them to have baby animals in the zoo to get visitors, then just kill them when they become inconvenient?


That spokespersons have said Americans just don't understand because we "Disney-fy" our animals unfortunately makes it sound like the killing of Marius was indeed intended to be provocative. Coupled with the zoo refusing to home Marius the giraffe elsewhere, I'm concerned about the EAZA's protocols, and hate having these concerns dismissed without answer.


Carol Coomer
Carol Coomer

Ridiculous, and morally wrong in SO many ways! Will never visit the Copenhagen Zoo!

Raj Oberoi
Raj Oberoi

India has cow shelters to settle old & abandoned cows  & families in private philanthropic ashrams, hope zoo authorities can have similar arrangement for these destitute animals for their welfare. Public contribution can solve the financial constrains . The act is no less than poaching of near extinct species. But who will bell the cat?  

Prasad Prsamy
Prasad Prsamy

higly condenable CRIME.those who responsble MUST be booked and given maximum punishment.Ramasamy sadhu.

Manuel Pompeia
Manuel Pompeia

Seriously? And we still sponsor Zoo's in Europe?


Only a century ago, there were as many as 200,000 wild lions in Africa. Today, the latest surveys estimate that there are fewer than 30,000.

Carla Blankevoort
Carla Blankevoort

What I would like to know is WHY animal life is less valuable (I n human minds that is) than human life?? There are many ways to have rehomed these beautiful animals. If they had been human they would have been spared at all costs, useful or not. It sickens me.

karen kalpin
karen kalpin

I am shocked! Why not try to re-locate the male lions??? Why KILL such magnificent creatures? I do not understand this at all, nor do i understand HOW this could have happened. :(

margie macrae
margie macrae

What a horrable crime.Shame on you Copenhagan


cesare narici
cesare narici

What about a Copenhagen zoo's staff culling, done by the lions ?

Bjorn Anker-Moller
Bjorn Anker-Moller

Anyone who has a problem with controlling the breeding in the artificial environment of a zoo must be against the whole concept of animals kept in captivity.


And I hope those who disapprove of killing zoo animals never eat meat or consume other products created from slaughtered animals

Sylvia Du Plessis
Sylvia Du Plessis

What can one expect from a Country that slaughters Dolphins until the sea is awash with blood !

Jean H.
Jean H.

Animals are culled naturally in the wild.  People have to make choices about culling when natural culling doesn't take place.  Of course, it's not a pleasant thing. 

Jon Ochsendorf
Jon Ochsendorf

one more reason why animals don't belong in zoos. In the wild they don't mate with their offspring

Bjarne Christensen
Bjarne Christensen

Here in Denmark nobody I meet finds this controversial. The giraffe was in week 7. That week is school holiday and that gave parents a possibility to bring their children to the event. The same week you could have seen a wolf or a badger being dissected in other zoos.

Week 42 is another week of school holiday. I guess we will have similar possibilities that week as well.

We find the lives of pigs, cattle and chickens for food production much more interesting to discuss. In that discussion the behavior of the zoos seems very responsible.

Traci Fannin-Poole
Traci Fannin-Poole

What the hell is wrong with the people running the zoo???  Are y'all out of your freakin' MINDS???


Those who work at the zoo, those who made the executive decisions, and those who let this happen are all HEATHENS!!!!

Christa Cross
Christa Cross

This is disgusting! This zoo needs to be shut down and the animals need to be transferred to a new facility that will protect them. I am sick to my stomach and appalled from reading this.

Sheila Stewart
Sheila Stewart

People are missing a significant point here:  they didn't just kill animals they KILLED AND DISMEMBERED AND FED a giraffe to the lions in full view of the public. Sorry if finding a rescue for these undesirables was too much work. Stop being so fecking lazy.

Nancy Lee
Nancy Lee

Disgusting and deplorable!  Generally, zoos are already deplorable places for animals.  It breaks my heart to visit some of them and see such unhappy, demoralized creatures stuck in cages.  For staff to have no compassion for the individual animals is disgusting.  The zoo should be closed and animals transferred to other facilities where the animal's dignity will be respected.  Killing these animals is shameful.  There were many other alternatives, and as someone else stated, the management seems money oriented without any real regard for an animal's welfare.  These wild animals that give up their freedom so people can see and learn about them deserve much better.  Close the zoo!

Cathy M.
Cathy M.

Euthanase is completely the wrong word here - the zoo has killed beautiful, magnificent, rare, healthy animals - this is what trophy hunters and poachers do.


It's quite clearly nothing to do with the zoo's breeding program and everything to do with its budget and some kind of horrible, rationalist, inflexible personality type who will not allow his / her decisions to be modified.


While it may or may not have a successful breeding program and may or may not be contributing to the survival of endangered species, this zoo should certainly not be allowed to continue the revolting practice of killing healthy animals. It is an abomination.

Rob Leary
Rob Leary

You can rationalise anything if you want...... lets be honest here, most of these decisions are made for financial reasons, and Zoos simply don't understand the ethics of real care which more often than not involve substantial financial costs without monetary return.... In the end Zoos are just sick places that play God all the time with their poor animals

Steve Sheets
Steve Sheets

I guess the people of  Copenhagen will be next to be euthanize to prevent inbreading.

Fred Flohrschutz
Fred Flohrschutz

If you read through this account, it is not the Zoo, so much, which is culpable.   The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria has rules but states:

   "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," the statement continued.

The death of these animals has caused "regret within the EAZA."???

Petition the EAZA to set higher stanards for breeding Zoos in Europe.  

A petition to this Zoo will have no more "TEETH" than the regrets of the EAZA.

These are professionals who don't have concerns about Culling healthy animals to curb inbreeding.

They need to be held to a higher standard and to oversight when they step so far out of bounds.

I believe the current terminology used in human populations is Ethnic Cleansing to make it seem less objectionable.    Sort of like culling, but for a different purpose.

CAROL LAMBERT
CAROL LAMBERT

STOP BREEDING!  ADOPT THE MANY ANIMALS IN SHELTERS!  WHAT'S WRONG WITH THOSE  'TARDS!  THEY SHOULD BE FINED AND PUT OUT OF BUSINESS!!

Adam Macfie
Adam Macfie

Zoos are gaols and all the inmates are on death row

Julie Colwell
Julie Colwell

Bengt Holst, Copenhagen Zoo's scientific director is an idiot. All the all animals there should be transported someplace else (out of Copenhagen) and that zoo should be closed down. So sad.

Ann Caffrey
Ann Caffrey

It is the easy way not the best way to solve the problem. Lazy and disgusting.

Estelle Hudson
Estelle Hudson

If the zoo knows that it is not viable to breed the animals that they already have, and risk interbreeding, why not sterilise them, or at least supply some form of birth control? Would it not be wise to have a database of zoo 'vacancies' BEFORE having the animals reproduce? In the case of the giraffe, the poor creature was allowed to grow big enough - after being introduced to the public - before being killed to provide meat for the lions! I wonder what happened to the lion carcases - were they fed to other meat-eaters?! Maybe the next step will be to incorporate gardens in the zoo, to make the whole enterprise self-sufficient - meat, fruit and vegetables to cater for all diets.....?

Stephanie Vasiliades
Stephanie Vasiliades

It is truly sickening to learn that EAZA allows and condones the destruction and murder of animals in European zoos just because they are no longer able to produce a litter or as an easy and cheap way to keep their breeding mills operating at top efficiency.  Isn't there something in a mission statement somewhere that zoos function as educational institutions and should respect and honor the lives of animals in their care?  That should trump killing any animal due to age, reproductive capacity or habitat availability!  What Copenhagen Zoo is doing is horrific and they should be shut down until they can act with more humane practices.

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