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The Death of Marius the Giraffe: Breeding a Circle of Life or a Circle of Violence?

The Death of Marius the Giraffe: Breeding a Circle of Life or a Circle of Violence?

Did the Copenhagen Zoo’s decision to murder and mutilate a healthy giraffe feel more like part of the circle of life or a circle of violence?

Marius was a healthy 18-month-old giraffe. A vet shot the giraffe, and the zoo staff proceeded to dissect his body. His carcass was fed (quite literally) to the lions and other carnivores.

There must’ve been a level of educational value because Marius’ death and dissection occurred in the presence of zoo patrons and their young children. As quoted in ABC, Bengt Holst, the Copenhagen Zoo’s scientific director, explained that the public death and public autopsy were “‘a good opportunity to invite our guests to watch… we are here to educate people and that is a good way to show people what a giraffe looks like.’” Because a chart of the giraffe’s anatomy or an actual living giraffe weren’t enough ways to “show people what a giraffe looks like.”

Why Did Marius Die?

Holst continues to defend the zoo’s decision. ABC reports that “giraffes had to be selected to ensure the best genes were passed down to ensure the species’ long-term survival.” The killing is part of the zoo’s effort to maintain a healthy giraffe population, now and for the future.

Marius’ death isn’t an isolated incident, either. As reported in ABC, “some 20 to 30 animals [are] put down at Copenhagen Zoo in a typical year.” This practice is perfectly legal, too. The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) states that in-breeding isn’t an option and that Marius “could not be taken in by the 300 other EAZA-affiliated zoos.”

Even though other zoos, animal institutions and private individuals offered to give Marius a new home, the Copenhagen Zoo did not accept any offers. As reported in ABC, the private individual had offered to buy the giraffe for $680,000. The other options that the Copenhagen Zoo considered were: 1) castration, but that is bordering animal cruelty; and 2) a release into the wild where his shot of survival was slim.

Not surprisingly, EAZA supported the Copenhagen Zoo’s decision. In response to the wave of criticism, EAZA explained, “‘The young animal in question could not contribute to the future of its species further, and given the restraints of space and resources to hold an unlimited number of animals within our network and programme [sic], should therefore be humanely euthanised [sic].’”

The Shortfalls of Surplus Animals

Marius was a surplus animal.†In a study published on the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) site, a surplus animal is usually used in zoos and Species Survival Plan (SSP) programs. A surplus animal is an animal that has “‘made its†genetic contribution to a managed population and is not essential for future scientific†studies or to maintain social-group stability or traditions.’”†It can also be an animal that “‘is no longer compatible with its social group’ for various behavioral or health reasons.”†The surplus of the animals isn’t accidental either. As the study explains, “It is important to remember, though, that every SSP produces surplus.”

Zoos lure patrons to their facilities with the cuteness of newborns, but what happens when that animal grows up?†PETA explains that breeding programs work “under the guise of species preservation.” And when that cuteness factor fades, it is common practice for zoos to “trade, lend, sell, barter, and warehouse adult animals they no longer want.” Had Marius lived, and he was an average surplus animal, his fate would have probably not been much better. Surplus animals usually end up in other haphazard zoos, Hollywood films, circuses or “canned hunt facilities, where they become targets for hunters who are eager to shoot ‘big game.’”

It’s not just giraffes and it’s not just in zoos.

As reported in BBC News, on February 9 the Longleat Safari Park “destroyed” six of their healthy lions. The Park explained that an abundance of pregnancies had brought about “‘excessive violence behaviour [sic]‘” with it. One lion was destroyed on the basis of an injury, while the health of the other five lions was reported “to be at risk.”

What Are We Breeding?

Since these types of breeding programs knowingly create a surplus, Marius’ birth and life were already, figuratively, fed to the lions. The institution that had engendered him never had an interest in protecting or caring for him.

These skewed breeding ethics must be reevaluated. Many innocent animals have a fate similar to, or worse than, Marius. Meanwhile, SeaWorld, an animal theme park, insists on keeping a killer whale named Tilikum alive. Tilikum, who is linked to three human deaths, is alive because — can you guess it? — breeding.

TAKE ACTION

The EAZA insists that Marius “‘could not contribute to the future of its species further,’” but they are wrong. Marius was more than his genes — he was a beautiful and healthy giraffe who had a right to be here. Help Marius’ senseless death “contribute” to the future of other surplus animals. Please sign and share the petition demanding that Denmark’s prime minister shut down the Copenhagen Zoo.

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Photo Credit: Alois Staudacher

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272 comments

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6:18PM PDT on Apr 6, 2014

I suggest everyone go to this Denmark's zoo's facebook page and tear into these psychopaths.. they're not running a zoo they're running a slaughterhouse and a circus for sadists. Any employees including the criminal director of this atrocity called a zoo should be thrown in to a jail cell. The Denmark government is also corrupt and full of Nazis. The Denmark governments sponsor that yearly atrocity in their Faroe Islands massacring pilot whales which is truly a crime which can't be forgiven.

12:38PM PDT on Mar 30, 2014

shocking story... hope more people become aware of this...

7:10AM PDT on Mar 23, 2014

What are the lions going to eat? Why prefer a giraffe over a deer or a chicken?

6:56AM PST on Feb 27, 2014

this is one of the most horrific stories I ever see it, thi been barbaric!!!!! cruel and not necessary. this poor baby did not have to die!!!!!, this people have not morals not compassion!!!! this photos just make my stomach and heart sick, this is toooooo cruel!!!!!!! I hope the person to did this or the persons pay in some way what had been done to an innocent and beautiful anima, Iam sick !!!!! I had prayed for this angel!!!

2:59PM PST on Feb 24, 2014

Charles, I mentioned this before. Why do you keep saying 'killed him like a dog'? Why do you think it acceptable to kill dogs but not giraffes? Surely dogs have the same rights as giraffes!

3:31PM PST on Feb 23, 2014

Charles,
-What is your opinion about killing animals or plants for our food? Aren’t they “god’s creations” too, and don’t they have a right to life too?

-If God’s creatures were not meant to be killed, why did god create nature in its current state where all animals/humans have to eat other living beings just to survive?

My point is, “Marius was part of god’s creation” is not a valid objection to his killing. There may be plenty of other objections, such as he was healthy, and the zoo was supposed to take care of him etc. But if people went by the rule that “gods creatures cannot be killed”, no humans would exist today.

Another thing, why do you keep repeating “killed him like a dog”? Is killing a dog acceptable? If so why not a giraffe?

3:02PM PST on Feb 23, 2014

PEOPLE ARE SO STUPID I REALLY MEAN IT WHY KILLING GODS CREATURES THESE ARE GODS CREATION WE ARE NOT SURPOSE TO BE KILLING EM FOR NO DAMM REASON LIKE THE BABY GIRAFFE MIRAIUS HE HAD THE RIGHT TO LIVE HE DIDNT DO NOTHING WRONG JUST LIVING HIS LIFE AND BEING A ANIMALE HE WAS SO VERY HEALTHY PRETTY AND A LIVE HUMANS ARE THE FAULT FOR KILLING HIM LIKE A DOG HUMANS DONT REALLY CARE FOR ANIMALES THEY DO IT FOR MONEY AND THIER SHOWS LETS PUT THEM IN A CAGE AND THROW FOOD AT THEM AND KILL THEM LIKE A DOG LIKE THEY DID TO MIRAIUS CUT THEM UP AND FEED THEM TO THE TIGERS AND LIONS CUT THEM IN FRONT OF EVERYBODY

11:24AM PST on Feb 23, 2014

Until this I was in favour of zoos so long as they had large enclosures, took the greatest care of their charges, employed resident vets, were involved in breeding programmes, and so on. I believed they participated in release programmes where possible (and it often isn't) and exchanged 'surplus' animals with other zoos. Young 'surplus' males should be castrated and sent to places that had enough space for them and the knowledge of their requirements.

The zoo director never explained why he thought castration was 'cruel' and what was wrong with the offer of nearly $700,000 (or whatever it was in a different currency.) He must have been aware of anti-zoo feelings before he took this dreadful decision. Now of course he has stoked the fires of zoo hatred!

11:11AM PST on Feb 23, 2014

Long time ago, I decided that the way to recover from the death of my beloved horse was to keep birds. I wanted to breed some, and I started to compare the ages after which hen budgies stopped breeding with the age to which they were likely to live...hmmm. quite a few years... So my plans for an aviary had to include space for retired budgies. Then I realised other breeders didn't take this into account... you can guess why not!

I believe in reading up the requirements of any bird or animal I would like to keep before they come to live with me. I recall one book that advised against giving your birds names. 'You'll find it easier to dispose of Hen No 27 than you will to get rid of Mary!' Yuck! My birds had names, and they lived happily until their natural deaths!

So I haven't mentioned the word 'giraffe' - but it's all relevant.

9:50AM PST on Feb 23, 2014

Lana N said "That is not the circle of life....a cat killing a bird is the circle of life. A human killing an animal with a gun, for NO GOOD REASON, is not the circle of life."

@ Lana, a cat killing a bird is Not the circle of life because the cat is not an indigenous predator in the countries where this is likely to happen. It was put there by us - human interference with nature again. I don't want to fall out with cat lovers - I'm just stating a fact.

Back to Marius. I doubt that cutting him up in front of children was educational. I guess there were tough children and squeamish children present. The tough ones noticed the reaction of the squeamish ones and started to taunt them. So the fate of Marius became fodder for bullies... Any worthwhile zoo director would think of this!

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