Healthy Giraffe Fed to Lions in Denmark Zoo; Facility Receives Deluge of Threats

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A Danish zoo is receiving hate mail from around the world after having killed a young, healthy giraffe to prevent inbreeding, then feeding it to the zoo's lions.

"I've got about 1,500 [texts] and e-mails, most of them are very hateful, addressed personally to me," Copenhagen Zoo scientific director Bengt Holst said.

Zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro said quoted one e-mail as saying: "The children of the staff of Copenhagen Zoo should all be killed or should get cancer."

The 18-month-old giraffe was killed by a gunshot Sunday at the Copenhagen Zoo and fed to lions in full view of visitors in person and via live stream.

Even more incredible? Marius' death took place even though an online petition gathered tens of thousands of signatures against the animal's demise.

The zoo also turned down offers from other zoos and individuals to take in the animal, which was born in captivity and is a species native to Africa.

Holst said it was killed to maintain a healthy giraffe population genetically, as inbreeding can cause animals to be born with significant deformations.

"If an animal's genes are well represented in a population further breeding with that particular animal is unwanted," he said in a statement Monday.

"As this giraffe's genes are well represented in the breeding program, there is no place for the giraffe in the Zoo's giraffe herd," and thus it was euthanized.

Some zoologists say they were baffled by that rationale. William Amos, professor of evolutionary genetics at the University of Cambridge, responded:

"It's simplistic to say the animal doesn't fit into our breeding plans - so then why let it breed it in the first place if you know it's not a desirable offspring."

"I think it's a rather feeble excuse," Amos went on, deriding the Copenhagen facility. "It's better to have another giraffe, particularly if it's a healthy one."

However, The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, which monitors international standards and of which Copenhagen is a member, backed the decision.

"Our aim is to safeguard for future generations a genetically diverse, healthy population of animals against their extinction," it said in a statement on its website.

"Copenhagen is highly involved in these programs and took a transparent decision that the young animal in question could not contribute to the future of its species further."

"Given the restraints of space and resources to hold an unlimited number of animals within our network and program, should therefore be humanely euthanized."

Amos said in response that nature has its own way of handling inbreeding. "Basically, we don't understand enough about these things," he said.

"The subject of inbreed depression, when close relatives breed, is a concern. However, when you get that, you tend to get (the death) of the (overbred animals)."

As the debate rages on, so does the contempt among the public. An online petition that once called for saving Marius is now calling for Holst to be fired.

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Why didn't they just give it to a different zoo? Makes no sense.

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This is one instance when humans dont need to interfere with nature. The giraffe could have been gently neutered. And the killing in front of kids ...if I was one kids I would have kicked the guy killing in the balls!

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I dunno what's the big deal. In the wild that giraffe would have been chased and ripped to shreds before succumbing to its injuries... Holy crap you people are overly sensitive to issues that should not be such a freakin big deal!!!! Haven't you ever watched the Lion King??? Circle of Life B!TCHES !!!! With a little help from us humans...
It's not like he killed an elephant and poached it for it's tusks to trade it in the ivory market... now that's animal cruelty!!!!!!

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I can not believe how this zoo in Denmark could kill the giraffe just because the giraffe had a gene that would produce more little ones and it to be killed at 18 months old and feed it to the lions in front of the children and I cannot see why they could have not let the Yorkshire UK zoo if they did not want it there they could have let it go to somewhere it would have been lookafter and as it is there is not much giffares left in the world as the are exstinted you would think that putting them in a zoo that is suppose to keep then safe to have then kill them can you really trust any zoos now after what has happened.

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@ rosemary

I get what u are saying but giraffes are not extinct. maybe there was something wrong with it, we don't know. but if there wasn't then the zoo was malicious. i hate zoos and will never support them.

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It happens daily in Africa.

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Wake up people, its called nature. Lion eats giraffe, the world is in balance.

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@ SAW

Dude, keeps the balance, nature... blah blah blah
Its perfectly fine if its in the African savannah
Its a zoo for crying out loud! humans have to be responsible for the animals if they keep animals in the zoo! Do you teach your kids to go out to the shop to buy a kitten and then abandon the cat once it is no longer cute?

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This is crazy. There was no good reason to kill this giraffe. They could have neutered him. They could have sold or donated him to another zoo. All the people responsible for this plan should be fired and blackballed from working at any other zoo. This animal deserved to life his life. What a tragedy.