On Marius the zoo giraffe that was fed to lions
In case you missed it, the Copenhagen Zoo is under critical fire from animal rights activists after administrators decided to kill Marius, a two-year-old reticulated giraffe. This decision came about because zookeepers recognized Marius was not suitable for mating due to his inbred nature. He was killed with a bolt gun, the same type of device used to kill livestock before butchering. In addition to this, in front of a crowd of people (including children), the giraffe was skinned and disarticulated, and his meat fed to zoo lions and other predators.
Since I’ve received a lot of requests for my opinion, here it is:
I think this is really, really interesting, and not to be insensitive to people who may be feeling very upset about this, I think it was cool. Zoos are not in the business of saving wildlife, they are in the business of business. Breeding programs help keep that business alive, and zoos are not necessarily concerned with sacrificing resources on a ‘product’ (e.g. animal) when directors or administration do not feel that investment will pay off in the end. There is a definite return on investment here, and if they’ve got an animal that will not be viable for continuing along in the zoo’s breeding program then they’ve got a business decision to make. In this case they used the situation as an educational opportunity, teaching children and adults alike the value of understanding the circle of life.
Could the Copenhagen Zoo have sent the giraffe to another zoo? Maybe, but then that zoo would also be faced with the business problem of investing resources into sustaining this animal knowing full well it was not suitable for breeding. In order to ensure zoos aren’t going into nature and plucking a giraffe out of the wild every time they need a new giraffe, this system of breeding within captive populations is a good one. In this case, Marius would not have been able to provide a return on the investment. In addition to this, the zoo has admitted that they cull dozens of animals for this same reason every year.
We can personify this animal and say the giraffe was victimized, targeted, or simply that an innocent creature was killed, but I encourage someone who is truly upset about this issue to take their problem up with the nature of zoo breeding programs worldwide. Marius’ fate was quite possibly determined for him before he was born. The Copenhagen Zoo administrators took advantage of this situation to deliver a unique and educational message to their visitors. If this has to be the way in which zoos function - the continuous breeding, inbreeding and culling of their stock - then I hope more facilities take advantage of the inevitable by turning the process into a teaching opportunity for everyone.
Photos from The New York Times: Anger Erupts After Danish Zoo Kills a ‘Surplus’ Giraffe