Scientist calls lion, giraffe deaths "zoothanasia"—or heartless elimination.
The four lions killed by the Copenhagen Zoo this week, as well as the healthy young giraffe named Marius put to death in February, didn't have to die.
A global uproar has followed the deaths of two African lions and their two ten-month-old cubs. Their lives ended because the zoo wants to introduce a new male to the remaining females to bear more lions.
The same outcry was heard when a healthy young giraffe named Marius, who had the wrong genes for the facility's breeding program, was killed with a bolt to his head—so as not to contaminate his body with poisons. The giraffe was publicly dissected and then fed to the zoo's carnivores, including lions.
None of the deaths were euthanasia, which is a mercy killing when an animal is suffering or lingering near death and must be "put down," as zoos always refer to such situations.
Rather, it was "zoothanasia," or killing done by zoo workers because an animal is no longer needed for one reason or another and is deemed to be a disposable object rather than a sentient being.
The "Marius Effect"
Many people around the world were outraged by Marius's death. I call this the "Marius Effect."
Many of them had never previously voiced their opinion about the common killings of what are disparagingly called "surplus animals" by zoos, or had spoken out about other animal issues.
While some workers at the zoo and elsewhere said the giraffe had to be killed because he didn't fit into the zoo's breeding program, and therefore couldn't be used as a breeding machine (like dogs at a puppy mill), countless others disagreed. An online petition asking the zoo to hold off on the killing until another home was found received tens of thousands of signatures.
Marius was killed despite the fact that another facility had offered him a home in which he could live out his life in peace and safety.
Many others and I figured that the negative attention that the late Marius brought to the Copenhagen Zoo would serve as a catalyst to change the breeding policies of zoos in Europe. We thought those responsible for killing him would reassess what they did and question their killing ways—even if such killings were required by existing regulations put forth by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA).
Written By: Marc Bekoff
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