Such health risks are one of the reasons that European zoos have preferred to use euthanasia.
Denmark embraces the policy and is very open about educating its public. Germany, by contrast, allows euthanasia only in “reasonable” circumstances, which can be hard to define, said Lesley Dickie, executive director of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. A few years ago at Zoo Magdeburg in northern Germany, it was discovered that a male tiger was a hybrid of two tiger subspecies, rendering the cubs it had sired genetically useless. When the three cubs were born, the zoo euthanized them immediately.
Dr. Dickie said the Zoo Magdeburg made a “courageous” decision. But the zoo director and three employees were prosecuted for violating the euthanasia law and have received suspended sentences.
When Animal Conservation Means Killing
It is morally questionable to allow zoo animals to have offspring only with the intent of killing them after a certain period of time and, in particular, at the point at which they are maturing. In a carefully worded statement suggesting that zoos might have other concerns in mind — culling animal populations to reflect certain needs — the New York Times says that “it might seem suspiciously convenient for zoos to destroy an animal just after it has completed its most adorable phase — given that baby animals are a top zoo attraction.”
“On an emotional level, I can’t imagine doing it and I can’t imagine our culture accepting it,”the St. Louis Zoo’s Asa says about euthanizing young animals. Is it not at least ironic, if not simply troubling, to hear a zoo’s director of “conservation” justifying euthanization?
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