Having a giraffe

Today I’ve been reading about Copenhagen Zoo and the controversy surrounding their actions regarding Marius, one of their giraffes.

The zoo apparently felt that Marius was “surplus to requirements” and they needed to control giraffe numbers, and to stop inbreeding issues and to continue the strongest genes.

Giraffe Marius in Copenhagen Zoo

Of course, the announcement that Marius was going to get it in the (very long) neck caused much consternation and calls for him to be spared.

Now, personally, I can see why folks find the idea of whacking Marius because he was “surplus” and genetically inferior, but I suspect this is because of my tendency to anthropomorphize animals. Killing a person because they have weak genes or there are too many knocking about is like some kind of horrific nightmare, but Marius isn’t a human. He’s a giraffe.

I’ve never fully understood the thinking that animals lives have the same value as a human one, because in my mind they don’t. And I think if it came down to a gun to the heads situation and you could pick a stranger or some critter to get blown away you’d pick John Doe every time, unless you’re a nutter.

For me it breaks down like this- Marius was probably surplus because the zoo environment isn’t a natural one for giraffes. In the wild there’d be less knocking about and their numbers would be whittled down by natural factors like predators, illness and so on. In a zoo, those don’t really come in to play and so numbers can increase unnaturally.

That’s not to say I’m anti-zoo. They can be helpful in conservation and educating people about the natural world, and as long as the animals are kept in a safe, appropriate environment without cruelty I’m fine with them.

So it probably makes logical sense for zoos to control their numbers and Marius just drew the short straw.

The zoo apparently asked around to see if anyone had a slot for a giraffe, but got nothing. Online pressure did cause Yorkshire Wildlife Park to offer to take Marius, but I think Copenhagen had decided to follow through with it by then and it wasn’t accepted. This does feel like a missed opportunity, but them’s the breaks.

Marius was put down today with a bolt gun and his body was to be used for research and then as food for the lions.

At this point the zoo staggered into a fresh controversy as the dissection took place in front of a bunch of kids. This hasn’t gone over well.

APTOPIX Denmark Zoo Kills

But personally I have to say I’m kinda for this. I mean, it looks like they had it set up in a specific area and didn’t just start filleting him in the middle of the enclosure, so parents had the chance to steer their kids away.

But for those who decided to take their kids why are they getting grief? They’re just educating kids. I mean, the children were probably quite fascinated (I would be) and they got a chance to learn some stuff.

I think it’s a British thing that we want to keep our kids sort of distanced from the blood and guts aspect of things, and if our European neighbours are a bit more open about that stuff then fair play to them. I think the British attitude has less to do with our “animal lover” status and more to do with our discomfort around death and explaining things to our kids. Kids should know how nature works and where food comes from, and they can also learn some anatomy stuff from Marius’ dissection too, so personally, while it might not be ideal for Marius I think it was handled quite well, and the zoo shouldn’t be getting the grief it is.

And feeding them to the lions is pretty right on, I mean that’s just the circle of life and at least Marius didn’t go to waste.

APTOPIX Denmark Zoo Kills Giraffe

Read more here.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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3 Comments on “Having a giraffe”

  1. Rune Svensson says:

    Hi Chris, I’m a Dane who Googled “antropomorfisme danish zoo giraffe” and found your blog. I agree with your observations. The American ambassador in Denmark reacted on the euthanasia of “Marius”, saying that there was a cultural gap between USA and Denmark (and Europe?). I was completely stunned by his words! Surely, animal welfare and education aren’t that different between US and DK?!! But then Tobias Stenbæk Bro from Copenhagen Zoo wrote that American zoo’s don’t feed their carnivores in front of the audience with carcasses but with minched meat in sausages and tubes, because the vet’s are afraid to “offend” the visitors.
    Personally I have neve seen an autopsy live, but I remember childrens TV-programmes from the 80’s and 90’s where children were shown autopsies on farm animals, frogs, birds, insects etc., so I presumed that this was normal in the Western World. In school many children visits farms so that they can litteraly see where are meat and crops come from. My class back in the mid 80’s visited a late medieval farm where we learned how to churn butter and make wooden shoes (poorly). I was almost butted by an angry sheep, but then it’s collar tightened because the rope was no longer…
    Anyway, American zoo’s have refused to answer the media on their opinion of the euthanasia and autopsy of this cute giraffe. I have a sneeky suspecion that many American zoo’s also sometimes need to put down surplus animals but are afraid to stir up a media frenzy.
    Funnily enough, another zoo in Denmark (Jyllands Park Zoo) also has a surplus giraffe, by coincidence it is also called “Marius” (named after an old veterinarian). This giraffe is a hybrid of different subspecies so it cannot be used in the breeding programme. Soon it might need another home or to be fed to the lions because the zoo is about to recieve a female giraffe from the breeding programme and they just don’t have the space for another giraffe (the male giraffes will start fighting if a girl is introduced).

    Kind regards from Denmark,
    Rune

    • chrisebpage says:

      Hi, Rune, thanks for the feedback!
      I can’t speak for the USA but there’s definitely a school of thought here in the UK that prefers a cleaner, sanitized view of nature. I’m not sure if they still do dissections at school (we just did one of a cow’s heart, but the biology lab had dissected animals in formaldehyde) but I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve stopped.
      A few years back there was a TV show called Inside Nature’s Giants which aired here that featured autopsies of various animals (including a giraffe coincidentally) and it got a fair amount of flak for broadcasting that.
      I think people don’t want to have to associate the food on their plate with cuddly animals and also don’t like the fact that nature can be harsh.
      I think Copenhagen Zoo’s actions were covered in a ridiculously sensationalized manner in the press and zoos probably have to put down animals frequently but it doesn’t get the attention, at least here something constructive might have come from it.
      Thanks again for the feedback!
      Chris.

  2. […] recently wrote about a Danish zoo getting in hot water for killing a giraffe, but now the Danish government are facing a backlash for not killing […]


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