Copenhagen Zoo kills healthy giraffe, feeds body to lions

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(CNN) – An online petition to save a healthy young giraffe from death has failed, despite thousands of signatures from animal lovers.

The Copenhagen Zoo said it euthanized the male, named Marius, on Sunday because of a duty to avoid inbreeding.

After an autopsy, “Marius” was dismembered in front of a zoo audience that included children, and fed to the zoo’s lions.

Despite online uproar over the move and reports of last-minute attempts to save the animal, the zoo in the Danish capital said it had no place for Marius in its giraffe herd.

“Our giraffes are part of an international breeding program, which has a purpose of ensuring a sound and healthy population of giraffes,” Bengt Holst, scientific director at Copenhagen Zoo, told CNN. “It can only be done by matching the genetic composition of the various animals with the available space. … When giraffes breed as well as they do now, then you will inevitably run into so-called surplus problems now and then.”

CNN anchor Jonathan Mann asked Holst if it would have been possible to sterilize Marius or move him to another zoo to avoid killing him.

“If we just sterilize him, he will take up space for more genetically valuable giraffes,” Holst answered.

Did the children watching cry? Mann asked.

Just the opposite, Holst said. The crowd was “very enthusiastic” and “the kids asked good questions.”

Fed to the lions

Marius was killed by a bolt gun, not a lethal injection, which would contaminate the meat.

The carcass was used partly for research and partly to feed carnivores at the zoo — lions, tigers, and leopards.

“In this case we would never throw away 200 kilograms of meat,” Holst said.

He said the giraffe was 2 years old, and while he was not officially named, his keepers had called him Marius to identify him.

The giraffe’s impending death had sparked outrage online, with more than 27,000 people signing a “Save Marius” petition, appealing for a last-minute change of heart.

“The zoo has raised him so it is their responsibility to find him a home,” author Maria Evans wrote on the petition site.

Copenhagen Zoo said that due to a massive debate on its Facebook page, it had published a Q&A about the decision on its website.

“It is not possible to transfer the giraffe to another zoo as it will cause inbreeding,” it said.

Several zoos volunteered to take Marius in.

The UK’s Yorkshire Wildlife Park, which says it has a state-of-the-art giraffe house and the capacity for an extra male, was among several places which put in offers to take him.

International breeding program

Copenhagen Zoo said only zoos that follow certain rules can be part of international breeding programs.

In Europe, these are members of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. The association counts just over 300 members and under its rules, inbreeding among giraffes is to be avoided.

The association said in a statement Sunday that it supports the zoo’s decision.

Despite Marius being healthy, his genes are already well represented at the zoo. Releasing the giraffe into the wild would be unlikely to succeed, Copenhagen Zoo said.

Contraceptives “have a number of unwanted side effects on the internal organs and we would therefore apply a poorer animal welfare if we did not euthanize,” it said.

It also made clear that its policy was not to sell the animals.

Outside autopsy

Holst told CNN the autopsy had been performed outside, given the giraffe’s size, and watched by the public, including children if their parents allowed them to.

“It is 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,” he said.

“People could come into this area if they wanted to. They came with children, without children, we had a lot of people.”

He said a group of about 16 protesters had gathered outside the zoo on Sunday morning and that he had tried to speak with them.

He said all options had been explored before the decision had been made.

“We have always been very open about it, explaining why we are doing it,” he said.

On average, he said some 20 to 30 animals, including goats, antelopes and wild boar, were culled for the same reason every year at the zoo.

“This is the first giraffe. … I do not understand the outrage — we are all used to on a current basis of animals being culled in the wild,” he said.

“We have to ensure a safe healthy population for the future, and you can only have a healthy population if you control and coordinate your breeding efforts.”

By Bharati Naik and Marie-Louise Gumuchian

Click here to see the video. (Warning: Graphic Materials)


  • Ellen

    There is no good reason to put a healthy animal down at all NO WHAT !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Glad I live here not there/

      • david

        yes that’s right, but the thing is that the lion shouldn’t be eating animals from their OWN zoo, yes they do eat animals that have been killed but not zoo animals that have been killed… it’s just wrong… that and the fact that they let everybody watch, even kids

        • CeCe Tharps

          david that makes no sense. “they don’t eat animals from their own zoo” ok the lion doesn’t care where the giraffe was before eating it. it just wants to eat. that’s like saying oh the lion doesn’t eat giraffes that live near it. and seriously if the kids can watch the animal get dismembered on the discovery channel well then they can watch it at the zoo too i guess. so because an animal wasn’t at the zoo it’s ok to kill and feed it to the lions? that makes no sense. and the whole it was healthy thing, well you know what lions don’t eat diseased animals in the wild because they’re diseased. it’s sad yes, but if this was in the wild no one would bat an eyelash. get on with your lives people. we need to stop thinking that we can control every country because of what we believe in. they did what they did. it can’t be reversed.

        • Justin

          Why not? Do you seriously think the lion knows the difference? A giraffe is a giraffe. Also why shouldn’t kids watch? We have required courses where kids must watch a slaughter in algeculteral areas.

          Here’s an idea, don’t want your kids to watch? WALK AWAY!

          • Judi

            so wait….they kill an animal that they let be born, knowing it would put a burden on the zoo population, they kill an animal that’s in a ZOO….an institution for conservation and education, they had multiple offers to save this animal and made a choice to kill it rather than let anyone else rehouse it, offers that would have brought hundreds of thousands of dollars for the care of the other animals in the zoo, they slaughtered it in front of kids and made a circus out of it……a Zoo is not a meat packing plant….it’s not a slaughterhouse………at some point we have a responsibility to choose life if there are options, which were numerous in this case. The scenario’s are not the same. And last time I checked we didn’t let kids view animals being gutted while TV cameras role and make it an afternoon of entertainment.

          • Justin

            “a Zoo is not a meat packing plant”

            Yes, it is. They go through MILLIONS of pounds of meat every year.

            “it’s not a slaughterhouse”

            Yes, it is. They buy in bulk and have to break down their own meat. Do you think they buy those 1 pound tubes of ground up hamburger? LOL!!!

            “they slaughtered it in front of kids”

            No, they did not. They slaughtered it. Parents put their kids in front of it. Get that straight!

            “at some point we have a responsibility to choose life if there are options”

            This is where you aren’t too bright. Saving that animals life only means that ANOTHER animal has to die for it’s meat. You really know nothing of which you speak.

            “And last time I checked we didn’t let kids view animals being gutted”

            Then you need to check again and quit being so blind. We have TONS and TONS of schools in the USA where it’s REQUIRED for students to view and take part in a slaughter. Same goes for all around the world.

  • Ricky

    That is horrible, I would never visit a zoo if I know that they do that. Never heard of this happening at The Norfolk Zoo, because I’m sure it doesn’t.

  • Star

    Unacceptable! Yet another example of the rapid decline of the human race. I find it extremely frustrating that these atrocities continue to happen even though the majority of people are strongly opposed to what is so clearly immoral

  • Steve

    We systematically destroy thousands of healthy animals every day. Cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, turkeys. Does the reason really matter? Just asking…..

  • Nicki Gray

    I think that this is a wonderful thing and a great lesson to teach children, yes I eat meat and ye Lions eat meat and you know what, if you too eat meat it also comes from hopefully ” healthy” innocent animals. I feel it is most important to raise your own meat and my children all help in the process of raising , loving an butchering the meat our family consumes. It would in my opinion e a terrific idea for zoos to raise and feed natural diets for all of their animals, I would visit this zoo if it were clos to me. GREAT JOB!!!

  • Justin

    All you people commenting are ridiculous. You know lions eat meat right? That meat comes from perfectly healthy animals that used to be alive. This is no different and in fact this specific animal at least died for two good reasons. MILLIONS and MILLIONS of perfectly healthy animals are killed every year to be fed to another animals. Grow up people and get a clue!!!! Especially you Ellen!

    It’s not like they killed it then wasted it.

    • Judi

      I find it very telling that you feel the need to call others names when exchanging a difference of opinion because one does not agree with you. It reduces the effect to that of being on a grade school playground and looses it’s effect. Next…it stands without reason that zoo’s go thru millions on pounds of meat in order to feed their animals….but a zoo is a place of education and conservation of animals…not a place to breed them with the mindset that if you have to many you feed them to the other inmates instead of rehousing them when they had the opportunity… You contradict yourself…..I stated that they slaughtered it in front of kids… said……..”.No, they did not. They slaughtered it. Parents put their kids in front of it. Get that straight!” Either way….they did it in front of kids….what’s your point……there is a right and wrong way to introduce and educate kids on the ways of the world….this was a blatant, in your face lesson on if it’s too much trouble to choose life then kill it and choose death…….You stated “Another animal would have to die in this one’s place if it didn’t die”…..(and again…more name calling….like we’re in 2nd grade) …but the point is…..we are talking about this animal…an animal that was bread at the zoo to be admired and used for education of others….not to be bolted in the head when there were other options for it to be moved and continue to be of use in bringing pleasure to kids who could enjoy it’s beauty. It was a healthy, young viable animal. Of course their are places all over the world where kids are subjected to horrific sights….doesn’t make it right……this was a ZOO…..supposedly a place of safety and conservation and education…….It is telling of a man’s character the compassion he has for creatures who have no choice in how they are treated…… be callus and cavalier at the unnecessary killing of this animal does little to further your cause as does the name calling……it’s really beneath an adult man and has no place in a debate of any kind.

    • t,white

      Sorry Yorktown,I accidentally reported your comment!! Not sure where your comment about germans came from,but you do realise that Copenhagen is not in Germany don’t you? And are you commenting sick,sick,sick because this is an exotic animal to you? Are you vegan? Because if not think of how many healthy,and unhealthy,(unless of course you raise and butcher your own meat?), animals have died to feed you and your family,while I’m not fond of the idea of children watching such as this,it is important for them to be well informed of what they are eating,maybe if they were better informed,say taken to a factory slaughterhouse,or a factory fishing ship they wouldn’t eat so much shite!!!!!

  • t.bateman

    You people do know they are just animals? Cut back from spending so much time complaining about animals and go out and help the starving kids in our world. Make a deifference and volunteer in a kids life. There is so many things you can put your time into that means something.

    • Judi

      t. bateman……The greatness of a nation and its moral progress

      can be judged by the ways its animals are treated

      ~ Mahatma Gandhi’

      • Justin

        It’s animals are treated just fine. With dignity and respect. Also, one zoo does NOT speak for a nation so you’re little point here is ridiculous. Unless you can show proof that at least 51% of that nation treats it’s animals horribly then you’re just talking out your rear end….again.

  • joyce felse

    After maybe understanding the valid reasons for doing this I cannot for the life of me understand what they could have been thinking to let the public watch. Can it ever be deemed right to allow children to see this, I dread to think what dreams they have?

    • Justin

      That’s their parents fault. Quit blaming businesses as they DO NOT raise children. I have no problem showing my kids this. Do you not realize that in the US agricultural areas REQUIRE children to watch a slaughter? You have a lot to learn.

  • Ed

    I would never go to that zoo…dispicable actions. You don’t cull what you call as surplus…this is a living, breathing beautiful creature that was wanted by other zoos but rather ignored, tortured, and fed to lions. Simply disgraceful.

  • Nick

    Come on folks! Get a grip! Why are people getting so upset over this? This animal was humanly euthanized. There are millions of cows and pigs slaughtered so you all can enjoy your cheeseburgers, hamburger helper meals, sloppy joe’s, bacon, baby back ribs and ham sandwiches and could care less. Why get so emotional over this giraffe?

  • RNatheart Brown

    something is not adding up. . .if the rational is, let’s put it down to prevent inbreeding. . then, snip/tie/burn, so that he will not be able to reproduce. but if your running low on meat and for some reason the meat delivery is going to be delayed or you are running low on funds . . well. . . . .maybe, but still I say they are leaving something out

  • Mitch

    Why was his mother allowed to breed with an unacceptable choice according to the rules of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria? This poor animal paid the price for human blunder and ineptitude.
    Unfortunately, this type of action makes enemies of people who were once friends. Logical or not. Love of certain animals cannot be explained. Even though many like to point out the hypocrisy. The heart cannot always be explained or upset quelled. The chips will fall where they may.


    I would LOVE for American parents to take
    their kids to see where all their “meat” comes from. Beginning to end. Just kidding. It’s horrific.

  • Jane

    my husband has eaten giraffe neck in south Africa. Most people eat meat which has been raised and killed in the same way as this giraffe with out all the fuss. Every time you swot a fly or wasp do you care?? They are all living creatures and unless your a vegan stop fussing.

  • Edvard Munck

    Ok so this zoo is proposing new educational service come and watch how to kill and gut living thing . The next step would be to gut a human being in front of curios sickos and their offspring

  • JoAnn Keville

    I am sorry, what you did was just plain wrong. Not all zoo’s breed their animals so there were options you could have taken. You even said other zoo’s offered to take the young giraffe. You talked about inbreeding. Well it is not inbreeding if they are not from the same blood line. And I am sure there are lots of zoo’s out there that have giraffes from different blood lines so if they chose to breed him that would not be a problem. In my opinion you all just took the easiest and cheapest way out and came up with all sorts of excuses to justify your actions

  • David

    There are people here who have never watched a nature show, who have never attended a biology class, who have never eaten meat or meat products….pathetic. I thought the guy did a good job explaining the reasoning, the same reasoning that our mothers and fathers and all the greats before them understood. “Progressives” make me sick.

  • Tracie

    I’m not annoyed with lions eating it,I’m annoyed that The fact they beed it . Then said ” oops, too many in that gene pool, let’s kill it.” They shouldn’t of bred it to start with !

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