The Death of Marius: A Step By Step Analysis

By Christie Wilcox | February 14, 2014 11:35 am
Marius, post-mortem, pre-necropsy. Photo from the Associated Press

Marius the Giraffe (post-mortem, pre-necropsy). Photo by Peter Hove Olesen/The Associated Press

A lot of internet outrage has been directed at the Copenhagen Zoo in the past week after they euthanized a young giraffe  because his genes were too common. From what I’ve seen, there are a lot of misconceptions about what happened, and a lot of hyperbolic statements are being thrown around about the event. The different decisions made by the zoo are being mushed together to tell one nightmarish tale, with adjectives like  “barbaric” and “cabalistic” used to describe the so-called “entertainment.”

But did the zoo really just hack a baby giraffe to bits to amuse its (clearly deranged) visitors? Let’s start from the end and work our way back to the beginning of the story.

 

The Giraffe Meat Was Fed To The Lions

Many people are upset that the remains were fed to the lions. But let’s be clear on one thing: lions are carnivores. That means that every meal they eat requires the death of another animal. There are no alternatives (not that are healthy for the lions, anyway). They cannot thrive on a vegetarian diet. Period. If it wasn’t giraffe meat, it would have been cow, pig, or sheep meat. So, if a zoo has 250 or so pounds of healthy, fresh meat—from an animal that lions eat in the wild, no less—what else should they have done with it? Let it spoil, throw it away? Why not let the animal’s death be beneficial to other animals at the zoo? It’s important to note that Marius was more than just food for the lions. As a new food type with novel sights, smells and textures, he served as enrichment. Though many have accused the zoo of providing visitors with barbaric entertainment, in reality, the entertainment was for the lions, enhancing their quality of life in captivity. Any other use of the meat would have been wasteful and a disservice to both the giraffe that was sacrificed and the other animals at the zoo.

 

Marius Was Necropsied In Front Of Guests

Perhaps the most venom has been directed at the zoo’s choice to necropsy Marius in front of paying visitors. Denise Cummins accused the zoo of “butchering an animal for entertainment” in Psychology Today, calling the event “nothing more than a canned hunt-blood sport.” In particular, many, like Jane Velez-Mitchell from HLN, have zeroed in on how the necropsy was performed “in front of an audience of children.” “That sends a horrible message to kids that violence toward animals is OK,” she stated.

First off, the giraffe was not “butchered” in public. The necropsy was performed behind the scenes, so it was far from a spectacle. Guests were notified of the event, and invited to witness it if they wished—which many did, from the crowd portrayed in the photos that have been circling. No one of any age was forced to see the dead animal being dissected. As for those kids that watched? They were chaperoned by their parents. Whether a giraffe necropsy is appropriate for a child to see is that child’s parents’ choice, not the zoos’—or yours, frankly. The idea that the necropsy was particularly disturbing because children were allowed to view it unfairly villainizes the zoo staff, and honestly, it’s downright insulting to the parents and guardians of those children (and to the children themselves, in my opinion).

But perhaps more to the point, was the necropsy a “butchering” for entertainment? Absolutely not. The veterinary staff at the zoo took a painstaking three hours to dissect the animal, the entire time discussing anatomy with the onlookers and answering their questions about giraffes and other animals, the necropsy process, and veterinary science in general. That’s not butchery—that’s a biology lesson.

Most high school students in the United States are taught anatomy with the assistance of dissection. The animals used as teaching tools vary from worms or frogs to fetal pigs or even cats. My freshman year, my classmates and I cut into a fetal pig to learn about tissues, organs and organ systems. I distinctly remember fearing the dissection before it began (I didn’t think I could even go through with it). But I learned more about anatomy from that dissection than I ever could have from a book or a lecture. As an undergrad, I was fortunate to score an internship with the Florida Fish and Wildlife’s Marine Mammal Pathology Lab in Saint Petersburg, Florida. One of my most vivid memories from that time is of a manatee necropsy. It was fascinating. While so many of their tissues are similar to ours—heart, lungs, muscles—the arrangement, size, and shape are just so… different. Seeing animals firsthand, alive and dead, inspires a deep and lasting appreciation for how incredibly complex and diverse the life on this planet really is in a way that videos and photos simply can’t rival.

There are alternatives, but according to most biology teachers, dissection is essential. The National Science Teachers Association in the US is clear on this point:

NSTA supports the decision of science teachers and their school or school district to integrate live animals and dissection in the K–12 classroom. Student interaction with organisms is one of the most effective methods of achieving many of the goals outlined in the National Science Education Standards (NSES)…

NSTA supports each teacher’s decision to use animal dissection activities that help students

1. develop skills of observation and comparison,

2. discover the shared and unique structures and processes of specific organisms, and

3. develop a greater appreciation for the complexity of life.

Upwards of 80% of US biology teachers use dissection in their classrooms, and they’re not alone—dissection is common in biology classrooms around the world. In a survey of Canadian biology teachers found that 87.5% either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “Real animal dissection is important to the teaching of biology,” and more than half agreed that “there are no substitutes for real animal dissection.” When prospective biology teachers in South Africa were asked about dissection as a teaching tool, more than 90% agreed that “dissection is an effective way to study the anatomy of an animal”, and three-quarters disagreed “dissection is unnecessary in biology education because one can find all the information in a textbook”. This is in spite of the fact that more than half had negative reactions to their first dissections as students. As far as the effect of these dissections on the teachers, cutting into animals didn’t turn them into callous, animal-killing robots. Almost 2/3, in fact, said that dissecting animals for teaching/learning purposes increased their respect for life.

I’ve never seen the insides of a giraffe, but if I had been at the Copenhagen Zoo last Sunday, I would have been one of the visitors who chose to watch the necropsy. I would have done so not out of some twisted penchant for blood or butchery, but out of pure and simple curiosity. And isn’t that the goal of educators everywhere—to foster natural curiosity, to make others want to learn more?

As I said on twitter, I applaud the zoo for performing the necropsy in such a transparent way and seizing the opportunity to offer their guests a unique (and optional) educational experience. The Copanhagen Zoo isn’t the only institution in the world that culls animals on occasion, whatever the reason. When animals die or are euthanized at most zoos and aquariums, they’re disposed of behind closed doors. The fact that the zoo was completely open about what they were doing and used the opportunity as an educational experience for their guests is commendable.

And for god’s sake, the kids that were present weren’t innocents wantonly exposed to a traumatic experience or serial killers in training—they were students given a once-in-a-lifetime anatomy lesson. According to CNN, the kids asked good questions, and seemed to get a lot out of the experience. To construe a scientific necropsy as fracturing the children’s fragile minds or teaching kids to kill animals (or people!) is beyond ridiculous.

 

Marius Was Euthanized With A Bolt To The Head

Let’s dispel the rumors right now: Marius wasn’t killed with a shotgun, or a handgun, or any regular gun. The veterinary staff used a penetrative captive bolt, killing him instantly. Some have cried out about how “inhumane” this method was—and when opposed, not-so-subtly suggested that I receive a bolt to the head to see whether it is humane. Such dramatic responses are disturbingly common. The zoo has received several death threats. There is no ambiguity here—this is abhorrent and inexcusable. I don’t give a damn if you think the zoo was wrong; threatening the lives of any of their staff members is appalling (not to mention disturbingly hypocritical). Personally protest the zoo, create petitions to get key staff fired, fine—but talking of killing any person, however culpable for the decisions regarding Marius, is intolerable. Anyone who thinks that the murder of any human being is justified by anything that occurred at the zoo needs serious psychiatric evaluation. Full stop.

Anyhow, I stand by my statement on twitter that the vets used an appropriate and humane method to euthanize Marius. As someone who has had to justify methodologies for the death of vertebrates to an institutional committee on the ethical use and care for animals, I know an awful lot about what veterinary boards see as ethical and humane euthanasia. In general, the criteria are obvious: the quicker the better, to minimize suffering. Painless, if possible. Scientists conduct entire studies to determine if euthanasia methods are humane, and a bolt to the head is considered one of the most humane. Across diverse animal lineages, any method that quickly severs brain function is universally approved, even preferred, because it’s faster and less distressing to the animal. Would it really have been better for the staff to slit Marius’ throat and wait for him to bleed out? Or poison him so that his death took minutes instead of a less than a second? Whether or not you agree with the zoo’s choice to euthanize Marius, once his death was decided upon, a bolt to the head was one of the most humane ways for the staff to have done it.

 

The Staff Decided To Euthanize Marius

This is truly the heart of the issue, and one worthy of close examination. The zoo’s scientific director, Bengt Holst, has vehemently defended the decision to euthanize Marius. Here are the facts:

  • Marius was healthy and could have lived much longer
  • Marius was 18 months old, the age that male giraffes go out on their own in the wild
  • Marius was a part of a captive breeding population under the EAZA’s European Endangered Species Programmes, with limited space and funding
  • Marius’ genetics are such that he could not contribute productively to that program, and his offspring would be detrimental to the overall population

What do these facts tell us?

From a conservation standpoint, keeping Marius intact as a breeding member of the population was not a good option. Captive breeding programs seek to maintain not only a certain number of animals, but also enough genetic diversity to ensure that the population is viable for the long-term. Genetic diversity is important because it ensures that the population can adapt to change like climate fluctuations or novel diseases. It’s fairly silly to put money and labor into a breeding program that doesn’t have enough genetic diversity to ensure the population is viable in the future.

It’s important to note that the ultimate goal of breeding programs is to preserve species, not individuals, and if resources are limited, the requirement of genetic diversity inherently means that these programs have to make decisions as to which animals are allowed to reproduce.

That said, there are options besides euthanasia that could have been implemented to prevent Marius from contributing to the gene pool, the most obvious of which would have been to remove the parts required for breeding. Giraffes, like horses, can be castrated (gelded). Without the equipment needed to produce and deliver sperm, Marius would have been effectively removed from the breeding population. Castration is a common method of controlling population—for example, animal shelters neuter stray dogs and cats all the time.

However, when it comes to giraffes, gelding isn’t a perfect solution. Yes, it allows the animal to live—but there are questions as to just what quality that life is. There are the risks of serious surgical complications, including chronic infection, but even successfully completed procedures have lasting effects. Gelding removes not only the reproductive parts, but also the parts that produce hormones that affect the entire animal. This is why gelded horses are calmer and better behaved. The decrease in these hormones certainly affects behavior, and it can lead to health problems down the line.

Marius could also have been relocated in such a way that he was kept separate from fertile females. There certainly were offers from other zoos, and Marius could have been housed elsewhere. But the Copenhagen Zoo, as a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, could not give him to a non-member institution. EAZA members are held to a certain standard of welfare quality that isn’t necessarily met by non-members. Furthermore, EAZA membership is contingent upon the animals staying in captivity and not being sold into another life, so if the Copenhagen Zoo had given Marius to a non-member zoo, he or his offspring could have become circus animals or hunting trophies. There were, of course, EAZA member zoos offering to take him—this is where the real tough decision-making occurred.

Marius could have been sent elsewhere and lived out his life. However, shipping large animals is far from cheap, and in general, the places that care for giraffes have limited money and space. Relocation aside, even if he wasn’t at the Copenhagen Zoo, Marius would have taken a valuable slot that could be allotted to another giraffe. When such slots are few and far between, how do you decide which animal gets them? Do some individuals matter more than others?

I don’t honestly have a great answer. I sympathize with those who see it as a tragedy that this young animal’s life ended. But I also see it from the zoo’s practical standpoint. Marius’ continued existence would have taken away precious resources from giraffes that have more to offer in terms of conserving the species as a whole. In this case, the Copenhagen Zoo decided that the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the one. I don’t think it was an easy decision to make, nor a completely unassailable one. But it is one that has been defended by conservation organizations, veterinarians and biologists, and I defer to them.

Lesley Dickie, the Executive Director of the EAZA, stated unequivocally that she and the organization “strongly support Copenhagen Zoo, which has an exemplary record of animal welfare, education, research and conservation.” While the EAZA understands why so many were upset by Marius’ death, Dickie believes it was the right choice. “EAZA members do not euthanize animals lightly,” he stated. “Alternatives were explored, and none were found to be viable; in addition, EAZA’s position is supported by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).”

“Conservation is not always simple,” she told CNN. “It’s not always clean”

 

Marius Was Born

If Marius simply had to die because of his genes, perhaps there’s a more important question that needs to be asked: why did the zoo allow his birth in the first place?

It’s a good question. The short answer is that the Copenhagen Zoo has a no-contraceptives policy (and animals like to copulate).

Such policies are certainly controversial. In the US, most zoos use contraception all the time to manage populations. Contraceptive practices are managed and monitored by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. But the Copenhagen Zoo strongly believes that mating and raising offspring are vital to the overall mental and physical health of captive animals. Furthermore, they cite the inherent risks of contraception.

Contraception—particularly methods like castration—can require anesthesia, which can be dangerous and even deadly for the animal because, like people, anesthesia is inherently risky (and even more so for a large, unpredictable animal). For this reason, many zoos are skittish of such procedures. However, as veterinary science has improved over time, less invasive methods have been developed, including injections much like those used by women. There is a method for giraffes that uses a dart to deliver Depo-Provera, and in the US, many giraffes receive contraceptives in their feed.

Contraceptives aren’t always effective, though. There has been at least one case of a giraffe giving birth after receiving Depo-Provera, the second-most commonly used hormonal contraceptive in ungulates. In addition, there are safety and quality of life questions surrounding contraceptives. The use of birth control can lead to infections or even cancer, or in milder cases, serious behavioral issues and destructive behavior

Ultimately, though, the Copenhagen Zoo’s policy on contraception is philosophically based. The Copenhagen Zoo has a moral stance on the act of mating, and believes that to deny animals their natural breeding urges is fundamentally wrong. That the zoo has this viewpoint is certainly not news—a 2012 New York Times article includes quotes from Bengt Holst clearly expressing the zoo’s opinions. “We’d rather they have as natural behavior as possible,” said Holst. “We have already taken away their predatory and antipredatory behaviors. If we take away their parenting behavior, they have not much left.” In the same article, he says that the zoo euthanizes 20-30 healthy exotic animals every year. 

“Some zoos professionals object to the use of contraception based on the belief that preventing animals from mating and raising young deprives those animals of a fundamental and enriching part of life,” explains Ingrid J. Porton in the book Wildlife Contraception. “These zoo professionals argue that it is wrong and even hypocritical to emphasize the the importance of developing enriched captive environments that facilitate performance of natural behaviors while at the same time advocating the prevention of natural reproductive behavior. This view holds that all social aspects of mating and rearing offspring are of overriding importance to the well-being of captive animals and to prevent this experience could be considered unethical.”

In the eyes of the Copenhagen Zoo, the humane death of surplus animals is an unfortunate but minor cost when compared to lowering the quality of life for all of their animals through contraceptives. So long as the animal’s life is good up until the moment of death, the zoo believes it is acting morally responsibly. In this moral system, how long or short  a life an animal has is of much lesser importance.

American zoos have a very different viewpoint. “By preventing the birth of animals beyond carrying capacity, more animals can be well cared for,” says Cheryl Asa, Director of Research Saint Louis Zoo and the AZA’s Wildlife Contraception Center. As she explained to the NYT, Americans are more willing to accept contraception than euthanasia.

 

So were they wrong?

My goal isn’t to convince you that the zoo’s choices were sacrosanct. Ultimately, whether or not you believe the zoo was wrong to kill Marius—or to let him be born in the first place—is a personal choice. Just don’t be drawn in by the hype and really think about the issues at hand before you decide. This wasn’t the senseless murder of a baby animal, and Marius’ body wasn’t gruesomely paraded around for the amusement of the zoo’s unhinged guests. It was a messy, complicated conservation decision—and I, for one, don’t envy the people like Holst who have to make these kind of decisions every day.

 

Some other GREAT posts on Marius & the Copenhagen Zoo:

 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Evolution, More Science, select, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: Conservation, Marius, Zoos
  • Rus Archer

    well, it’s butchery AND a biology lesson
    is there a reason why zoos don’t just feed live animals to predators like lions?

    • stimps

      I’m with Eric Landergott. Why do something if it is not strictly necessary? I have known all these facts from the beginning. It’s the tone-deafness of those who did it that is the most distressing part of this, to me. If they just came out and said “okay maybe we should have tried harder to figure something out” rather than dig in their heels and tell the world that it’s totally the right thing.

    • Kevin Smith

      I saw a video of a small van that started to tilt the back until a small calf slid out, it was absolutely terrified, when it hit the ground lions seized upon the calf, this was all in front of a group of people at a zoo, it does happen.

  • Eric Landergott

    My concern with this isn’t that he was fed to lions. Most understand that lions are carnivores. What I find troubling is ending the life of a healthy animal held in captivity, for no other reason than “genetically” it would detrimental if he reproduced. There were other options available.

    • Wullum

      I agree, Eric. While there were many options available and apparently considered, it is my view that it boiled down to money and inconvenience. Perhaps a little more outreach would have been in order, allowing ALL possible options being considered and widely communicated prior to inflicting the ultimate punishment on this healthy and defenseless animal. I fear this merciful “God-like” convenience killing reflects poorly on humanity and the value of life. Who among us chooses to become the focus of an expert committee weighing and judging our value versus our cost to society? We should be better and smarter than that.

      • August Pamplona

        There’s no such thing as “convenience” here. Money (resources) matters. You can’t merely wish more money into existence which necessarily entails that spending more money on one thing implies spending less money on another thing. The fallacy you suggest is that one choice is “God-like” and another choice is not. A zoo is run by making choices and it can be no other way. It would have been just as “God-like” to choose to keep Marius alive as to euthanize him.

        • Wullum

          “It would have been just as ‘God-like’ to choose to keep Marcus alive as to euthanize him.”

          You make a valid point here.

          However, I remain convinced that all possible rescue alternatives were not seriously considered, and Marcus was condemned based on a shortsighted calculus that saddens those of us who recognize the sanctity of life, even that of a mere giraffe.

          • August Pamplona

            Should those of us who recognize the sanctity of life, even that of a mere giraffe, also recognize the sanctity of life of a mere cow or pig?

            That’s another part of the web of “God-like” decisions here. They are not only making the choice to kill Marius. They are also making the choice not to kill another cow. What makes you the arbiter who determines that a cow or a couple of pigs are not sacrosanct but this giraffe is? Aren’t you being just as “God-like” as the zoo officials when you make that judgment?

          • Wullum

            Again, an impressive and valid point.
            I suppose it has everything to do with perspective.

          • lball

            I am wondering how many thousands/millions of dollars have been donated to EAZA by the condemning back-seat drivers? If all the people disgusted with this action contributed sufficient funds to expand this program to keep all the “common genetic material” alive, the problem would be solved. Of course, that would be more personally expensive than just posting an opinion.

          • Teresa Wagner

            I would happily contribute to shut down all zoos and aquariums.

          • lball

            You should do that. Of course you are ignoring the benefit these facilities provide. I’d be willing to bet the vast majority of biologists got that start interacting with animals as children at these facilities. There is nothing morally or ethically superior to consuming plants versus animals. When you put your survival ahead of any other living creature any ethical argument is moot. There are plenty of studies that demonstrate plants “feel” their surroundings, and even react to emotions. Killing them for your own survival and claiming a morale superiority is hypocritical. Claiming that being vegan has less of an impact on the planet is illogical too. Like being a “little bit pregnant”, you are asserting that your method of destruction is better than someone elses, which begs the question, who decided that everyone has to comply with your beliefs?

          • Bigguns McGee

            I mean no disrespect but did you read the whole article? Some of the assumptions underpinning your argument were addressed.

    • Chris White

      It seems like you did not read the article to the end. It is clearly stated that the zoo had no other choice but to end Marius’ life. EAZA zoo’s can NOT give an animal to other non-member zoo’s. So that option was not available. Don’t think ending an animals life is easy or a decision made lightly by any zoo. Anyway just read the article.

      • lball

        At least someone else read the entire article, AND even understood the big words. :) Ditto, Chris.

  • Kevin Smith

    Great story, and answered all my questions, honestly, ever watched our own pets catch and kill another animal, and please we kill whales and dolphins and eat them, they had not alternative, maybe they should have chosen to do it all after hours behind closed doors, but that’s life and they took the responsible action to fix this matter.

    • TB

      They did have other alternatives, they just choose not to use them. We should not kill dolphins and whales either but I don’t think you know anything about the depth of that subject and how wrong it is to have a discussion.

      • Chris White

        Read the article please. They did NOT have other options.

        • Teresa Wagner

          Of course they did. They just used politics to say no and create this barbaric spectacle.

      • Kari Lauver Hill

        So lets all just go vegan. Because I guess killing any animal is not humane. Be real here people! If you have these fews over one giraffe then you better not eat meat ever. Because this is what happens all over the world every day to sustain life. Marius died fast and painless that is far better then lions getting him and strangling him as the others eat him alive. Like Chris said things like this have to happen to keep a good gene pool or in breeding will occur which is very bad. There are tons of dog breeders that cull pups that don’t meet AKC standards. That is wrong but it doesn’t get attention to this extent. And that is not even for the species sake its because the owners cant make money of them.

        • Teresa Wagner

          That’s the best idea yet. Yes, let’s all go vegan. Healthy for our bodies and it would save 10 million animals ever year, not to mention the benefit to the environment if factory farming stopped using all that water.

  • grackle1

    What’s disturbing here, to me, is twofold: one, the zoo’s contention that mating and parenting behavior is necessary for the animals’ mental health, resulting in the birth of “excess” animals. It is EXACTLY this same “reasoning” that many ignorant people use in allowing their pet cats, dogs, and horses–yes, horses too!–to breed, flooding shelters and rescues with unwanted puppies and kittens, or condemning them to lives of neglect and even abandonment to become society’s problem. Yes, I have heard people say out loud “I’m letting my cat have kittens to teach my kids the miracle of birth.”

    I would also be curious to know if the zoo used Marius, as a newborn, in advertising their zoo and luring people to come visit it. (Please note I am not an anti-zoo person.) Many zoos use baby animals to increase interest in the public and have all sorts of contests, such as naming contests, to get people through the entry gates. After presenting the young animal as an endearing personality, it seems morally wrong to then dispatch it as “excess inventory.” Zoos can’t have it both ways, promoting their animals as individuals and personalities and then claiming that they’re merely livestock.

    I have no problem with the necropsy and the use of the meat for lion food, but I am flabbergasted that the Copenhagen Zoo creates its own problems in this way by overbreeding its animals and inflicting human notions regarding what makes for a full life by not using neuter/spay/contraceptive technology to avoid the problem in the first place. Do Marius’s mom and his herd mates now go from being humanlike creatures who must have families to lead a fulfilling life to merely livestock that won’t notice Marius has gone missing? Are they saying Marius’s mother must experience the “loss of a loved one” to make her life complete? No, of course not, that would be anthropomorphism. Oy! Consistency of thinking is problematic, isn’t it, Zoo Directors?

    • sbglasius

      Marius was mature and ready to leve the flock. He would have ended up fighting with his father, potentially causing damage. So he “wandered” of to find another flock to join, and his mother would never miss him – just like the giraffes on the plains of Africa.

      • blueangel17

        Except he didn’t. Because he was in captivity. And humans made the decision for him.

        • sbglasius

          Yes, just like we make the decision every day to kill thousands of cows and pigs. If you can tell me the difference, please do so.

          • Teresa Wagner

            Not all of us do! Some of us are vegetarians and vegans because we refuse to be part of unnecessary killing.

    • Chris White

      Actually, the zoo doesn’t have a contreception policy, because the health of the animals. It is line with the reason not “just” to castrate him. It’s solely a health issue. Sexual behaviour is important to animals overall behaviour. It is the same thing with humans. The mental health of a castrated giraffe would be lessened – that is the reason why it’s better to let Marius die. And not getting personal, but how would you feel if your private parts were cut off? How do you think that would influence your mental health, your behaviour and your choices from that day?

      • grackle1

        I cannot agree with you here. Now you’re back to likening humans and animals as if animals are exactly like people, with the same self-perception and consciousness etc. (And I work with animals, so I definitely am *not* one of those people who think animals can’t think or reason or experience emotions; but to assume that animals experience life exactly as humans do is to do them a disservice and is disrespectful to them–e.g., if you can’t understand how a horse experiences the world, you put yourself and the horse in danger). Sexual behavior in wild animals (as opposed to the altered “in season” status of many domestic animals) is limited to set breeding seasons, right away making an animal’s sexual behavior more rooted in instinct than human behavior. And the castration of domestic animals such as stallions and dogs, and the spaying of dogs and cats…it grieves me to think that people out there would use the notion of an animal’s need to have a fully sexual life as an excuse not to spay and neuter. How would you feel if your children were taken from you and flushed down a toilet–as I witnessed as a child when a mama cat’s young were taken from her? Have you ever seen animals gassed at an animal shelter because they do not have homes? If you’re going to ask “how would you feel if your private parts were cut off” in the context of animal health, then you have to face these considerations too. Have you ever worked with horses? If you did, you’d know that a stallion not intended for use in breeding is largely uncontrollable and dangerous for most people, and if they weren’t gelded, they’d all be slaughterhouse-bound. The geldings I’ve worked with are contented animals who love doing their work with their riders and get along with other horses, geldings and mares–they flirt with the mares but aren’t frustrated and unhappy.

        A great disservice is done to domestic animals when people put their notions of human sexuality as paramount and apply it to animal welfare; it is this ignorance that continues to fill the boneyard with the remains of countless dogs, cats, and horses. Responsible people spay and neuter dogs and cats, and geld stallions. I can’t really speak for zoos and the maintenance of captive wildlife, that’s out of my realm of experience. Though lack of knowledge and experience doesn’t seem to stop many people from stating opinions on the topic…

  • Evan Sanders

    You’ve written a commendable article in defense of the Copenhagen Zoo. A few of the take aways worth noting, facts worth verifying:

    ○ Giraffe sterilization and contraception is not technologically advanced enough to ensure the animals do not suffer throughout their lives afterwards. Both sterilization and contraception can lead to poor quality of life and, therefore, could be construed as inhumane.

    ○ Keeping the giraffe unsterilized places a risk on the global population of the giraffe as a species. All too often we take a species for granted until it become endangered.

    ○ Children voluntarily participating in the event were not “spectators” who considered it a “blood sport,” but rather, genuinely interested in animal sciences. For species of animals to thrive, human scientific intervention will become increasingly vital in a planetary ecosystem, threatened by human pollution and the expansion of human civilization into animal habitats. Therefore, igniting the interest of children in animal sciences will ensure the next generation of humans become capable caretakers of animal ecosystems.

    I think it is noteworthy to share two thoughts. First, animals are sentient lifeforms who require higher lifeforms such as humans to ensure their survival. Second, although I was raised in the Judea-Christian religious faith by agnostic Christian parents, I believe God considers the souls of animals important and preserves them for the afterlife that many religious people believe is only reserved for the human species. Some are so arrogant as to believe humans are not a “species of hominid” but some kind of godlike creature, and their early church canonized Bible is a compendium of books that provide contradictory views on God’s view on animals. Some books highly value them (God named every one, and there are quadrillions that lived over Earth’s history), other books relegate them to sacrificial offerings. No wonder everyone’s confused.

    • blueangel17

      My main issue is with the idea that we are somehow qualified to keep animals in captivity, breed them according to our own ideas, and make decisions about their lives and deaths simply by virtue of being human.

    • Chris White

      In my response I would say, yes, we are required to ensure the survival of the species, of “lesser animals” (a lack of better words). Thats exactly what EAZA is doing. They ensure genetic varity to ensure the survival of the giraffe population. Why is varity good? Say one bacteria or virus is especially good at killing giraffes, having a varied gene pool makes it more possible for some (few or many) to survive because of its genetic traits, therefore not wiping out a species.
      It’s good to see that your religion somehow is protective of animals, however I wish you would then go about this in a more rational way. I don’t want to argue with you over the whole “soul” question, but let me just add one comment. We can’t know if anyone or anything has a soul, it is a point of view that you may hold, but it is still unrelated to science. Therefore we can not base our actions upon the notion that something or someone has a soul. And as I said earlier what CPH Zoo does is the most logical move to ensure a healthy population of giraffes, and following your idea of giraffes having souls, would actually be detrimental to the overall health of giraffes within EAZA.

      • LaRee Bricco

        Richard Dawkins would say that whether an animal has a soul or not has a probability within science. Whether or not animals (including humans) have souls is not just a simple “either or” problem with equal probability. There is a probability leaning more toward science; i.e, there is a better chance of animals not having a soul
        than there is of having one. Just saying.

    • Denis Lipp

      Regarding your statement “God named every one…” I refer you to Genesis 2:19 which reads” Now Jehovah God had been forming from the ground every wild animal of the field and every flying creature of the heavens,and he began bringing them to the man to see what he would call each one;and whatever the man would call each living creature,that became it’s name,” (NWT 2013)

  • TB

    She didn’t say anything that changed my mind. They still invited people to watch the dissection of a giraffe that didn’t need to happen in the first place. It wasn’t a biology class where those bodies are donated, this animal was murdered because they didn’t want to pay to move him elsewhere. They can spin it however they want to but it’s still disturbing and wrong that they CHOSE to kill him because of his genes and their lack of money, when he could have had a long life somewhere else. They are selfish and wrong. It’s like killing a greyhound because they are old. Now greyhound get sent to live out there life in sanctuaries. If his genes were bad, as they said, he should have still had the opportunity to live his life. After all, he isn’t just here for our breeding purposes.

    • Sam O

      Animals that are dissected in biology classes are usually bred specifically for that purpose. Much like the animals we eat, they are born to die.

      • Teresa Wagner

        Being bred to be killed is just as bad. And we’re part of it if we eat them.

        • Sam O

          Exactly. And what percentage of the people who were “outraged” about Marius’ death do you think were vegans? And even for those who are vegans, there is no way to live in this world without benefiting from animals’ deaths.

          • Teresa Wagner

            I have no idea how many outraged by this are vegan. However, the idea behind being vegan is to create the least possible harm to other living creatures with whom we share the earth. All I read from this article was a series of excuses about why this animal was murdered.

        • Sam O

          Exactly. And what percentage of the people who were “outraged” about Marius’ death do you think were vegans? And even for those who are vegans, there is no way to live in this world without benefiting from animals’ deaths.

    • Chris White

      Again you are wrong.. It wasn’t about money, read the article… Copenhagen Zoo wanted to move the giraffe to another zoo, however other EAZA member zoo’s could not take him. The offers that were given for Marius were from non-member zoo’s, and CPH Zoo couldn’t give Marius to those zoo’s, since the EAZA forbids that pratice. (apparently something with standards regarding health for the animals and such). And they CHOSE to kill Marius because it was the only choice they had. Getting the best out of a bad situation, Marius body could be used educaitonally. Are you even aware of how few times giraffes has been dissected? It’s a rare occasion, I myself was sad I wasn’t there to watch this once in a life time experience.

  • webgoil

    Christie, you could write a novel defending the actions of the zoo – hell, you could write ten novels on the subject and I’d still say you’re wrong. Killing Marius was criminal. He should have been sent to a sanctuary or another zoo. The zoo is cheap and the idea that this was an educational experience for children is insane. Case closed.

    • Chris White

      First off, on what base that assumption on what? It’s criminal why? Who decides when it’s right to kill an animal? Animals are killed everyday by zoo’s all over the world to feed lions, cougars etc. Why is Marius any different? Secondly Do you understand that they COULD NOT send him somewhere else? Do you understand thay ending Marius life was the LAST OPTION? Sorry I spell it out in caps, but I don’t believe for a second you read the arguments against your own position on this, if you had you wouldn’t be making criminals out of people who spend their life CONSERVING animals, and saving the endangered giraffe population.

      • webgoil

        Marius could also have been relocated in such a way that
        he was kept separate from fertile females.

        AND SO WHY WASN’T THIS DONE?

        There certainly were offers from other zoos, and Marius
        could have been housed elsewhere. But the Copenhagen Zoo, as a member of the
        European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, could not give him to a non-member
        institution.

        WHY DIDN’T THEY SAY SCREW EAZA AND DO THE HUMANE THING?

        EAZA members are held to a certain standard of welfare
        quality that isn’t necessarily met by non-members.

        I DON’T BELIEVE FOR ONE MOMENT THAT THERE ARE NO OTHER
        NON-MEMBER INSTITUTIONS THAT WERE NOT OF THE HIGHEST QUALITY. THE TORONTO ZOO
        FOR EXAMPLE TRIED TO SAY THAT ABOUT PAWS – THE SANCTUARY IN CALIFORNIA WHERE
        OUR ELEPHANTS FINALLY RETIRED AFTER A LONG AND ARDUOUS BATTLE WITH PEOPLE THAT
        WORKED TIRELESSLY TO SABTOGAGE. NOW THE ANIMALS ARE WARM, HAPPY, AND HEALTHY.

        Furthermore, EAZA membership is contingent upon the
        animals staying in captivity and not being sold into another life, so if the
        Copenhagen Zoo had given Marius to a non-member zoo, he or his offspring could
        have become circus animals or hunting trophies.

        NOT IF SENT TO AN ANIMAL SANCTUARY!

        There were, of course, EAZA member zoos offering to take
        him—this is where the real tough decision-making occurred.

        AND WHY DIDN’T THEY SEND MARIUS TO ONE OF THE EAZA MEMBER
        ZOOS?

        Marius could have been sent elsewhere and lived out his
        life. However, shipping large animals is far from cheap,

        SO WHAT? CHEAP VS. SAVING A LIFE? SEEMS LIKE A NO BRAINER
        TO ME – IF YOU VALUE LIFE.

        and in general, the places that care for giraffes have
        limited money and space.

        LET THOSE PLACES DECIDE IF THEY HAVE THE MONEY AND SPACE
        TO HOUSE GIRAFFES.

        Relocation aside, even if he wasn’t at the Copenhagen
        Zoo, Marius would have taken a valuable slot that could be allotted to another
        giraffe. When such slots are few and far between, how do you decide which
        animal gets them? Do some individuals matter more than others?

        AGAIN, LET THOSE PLACES DECIDE WHICH ANIMAL GETS THE
        SPOT. IF THEY HAD OPEN ARMS TO MARIUS THEN WHY BLOCK THE TRANSFER?

        I don’t honestly have a great answer.

        CHRISTIE KNOWS THAT SOMETHING VERY WRONG AND DISTURBING
        WENT DOWN. IT’S OBVIOUS.

        I sympathize with those who see it as a tragedy that this
        young animal’s life ended. But I also see it from the zoo’s practical
        standpoint. Marius’ continued existence would have taken away precious
        resources from giraffes that have more to offer in terms of conserving the
        species as a whole. In this case, the Copenhagen Zoo decided that the needs of
        the many outweighed the needs of the one. I don’t think it was an easy decision
        to make, nor a completely unassailable one. But it is one that has been
        defended by conservation organizations, veterinarians and biologists, and I
        defer to them.

        THERE ARE PLENTY OF CONSERVATION ORGANIZATIONS,
        VETERINARIANS, AND BIOLOGISTS THAT WOULD NOT DEFEND THE COPENHAGEN ZOO’S
        DECISION TO KILL MARIUS AS WELL.

        PRETTY SURE I READ THE ARGUMENTS ABOUT WHY THEY CHOSE TO
        DO WHAT THEY DID. I JUST DON’T AGREE WITH IT FROM A MORAL AND ETHICAL
        STANDPOINT.

        • http://cendax.wordpress.com/ Norbrook

          Because if they said “screw EAZA” then you end up losing membership in the organization.

          • Teresa Wagner

            So their “membership” in some organization is more important than the life and care of their animals? That excuse is absurd.

        • Teresa Wagner

          Bravo!

  • Kristy McCaffrey

    This article just sugar coats one simple truth — what the zoo did was wrong. You can spin it however you want. Humanity is better than this. Change the rules. We can become better. We owe it to ourselves, to our children, and most importantly to the animals we care for.

    • Chris White

      Why is it wrong? Can you tell me why you think that? I can tell you why it is the right decision. Marius was genetically similar to the other giraffes and would therefore produce inbreed. Giving him to other EAZA member zoos would produce the same negative offspring results. Giving him to a non-member zoo could not be done within the current rules of EAZA, that has to do with animals health and well being. The only real choice was to kill Marius, which was the best decision, since he could not be put into the wild, where he by the way would suffer a more tragic and brutal death. Since the loss of Marius the zoo made the best of it and made it educational for the people and dissected the animal and explained everything they did. They fed it to lions, so they didnt have to kill a cow that day.
      So now WHY is it wrong to do what they zoo did?

  • Josefina Dianita Macias

    wasn’t there an article not to long ago re: copenhagen and the slaughter of a rare dolphin? the video I saw was people clubbing and slicing the dolphins and the water red with their blood…Seems to me Copenhagen/Denmark has a thing about killing animals for whatever scientific reason they conjure up!!

    • Paul Shipley

      Hmmm. That was Japan and totally unrelated.

    • Chris White

      You may refer to the Faroe Island which is a part of Denmark. The Faroe Islands have a distinct culture, and they kill some hundreds of dolphins every year (sorry for forgetting the actual number). The pratice is allowed but frowned upon, however the dolphin population is strictly regulated by the government.
      On your point that “Denmark has a thing about killing animals for whatever scientific reason they conjure up!!”
      I can answer that as a Danish person. NO! We do not just club, slice and kill people left and right because we want to see them die in the name of science.
      However it just so happens, that we have one of the most succesful educational systems in the world, that welcomes oppurtunities to educate people.
      If you read the article you are commenting on, you would know that the decision to kill Marius was the last possible option, and if you don’t understand why, please just read the article.
      Secondly, performing the dissection of the animal in front of people, were an educational once in a life time experience, that people volunterily participated in.
      The fascination of the natural world, and how things came about can be learned and studied in real life. Dissections are performed everyday on humans in universities, how else would a surgeon know how to find your kidney when he gets a job? Please stop throwing around empathetic words that surgets someone did a crime, and actually investigate what happened, and why that Zoo did the right thing for the survival of the giraffes.

  • Ala Brazi

    What is disturbing more for me is the rising costs of imitating the nature as we continue depleting the earth and the humans for what is called mistakenly growth. We will not be able to bear the unexpected outcome of engineering the whole nature with sientific researches as many turned out to be false. Australia started a program to kill camels based on the theoritical outcome of sientfic researches to regret it after some years based on unexpected practical outcomes which then proofed to be true by another scientific researches. Japan defended it’s whale fishing with untrue scientific arguments. We are turning our eyes away from the real problems which are political and which already has taken humanity into a dark tunnel.

  • Dedge

    And how will you justify the up and coming death of another Giraffe that may occur at another zoo soon to be shortly? If zoos in Copenhagen have such precious limited space perhaps it is time for them to rethink the species that they keep in captivity. I question the value that they place upon the animals that they are entrusted with their care and welfare. If only to provide a meat source and enrichment, when the “new” wears off, and perhaps a more manageable sort, like a pig or goat, than one that they surely invited many to witness, celebrate and share in, than the birth of when this baby giraffe was born. I find your report somewhat self serving and far from a sane and reasonable explanation. I understand that the zoo director became more involved in a “pissing match” with animal activists, and showed them he would do want he wanted, and clearly your report and explanation validates him.

  • db

    I think people are hypocrites, there are thousands of healthy animals killed everyday for meat etc. I feel peoples energy would be better spent on other animal cruelty that goes on around the world.

  • http://MacroManJr.blogspot.com/ Brian Lockett

    Why couldn’t they just:

    a) Neuter the giraffe? Solves the breeding problem.

    b) Send the giraffe to a wildlife reserve? There was someone willing to pay nearly $700,000 for the giraffe. I’m sure that’s more than enough money to simply send the giraffe to a reserve.

    c) Send the giraffe to another zoo? There might’ve been other zoos somewhere that could’ve been in enough position to take the perfectly-healthy and young off their hands.

    I don’t know. I don’t know enough about the situation firsthand, so I can’t speak entirely for certain, but it seems to me that there were better options on the table.

    In any case, I think they at least could’ve defended the issue better than the sloppy way they handled the news publicly.

    • http://MacroManJr.blogspot.com/ Brian Lockett

      Though, I’d also have to say that folks shouldn’t blow their stack over this. It’s done and over with, folks

      The thing’s dead, there’s nothing more to be done about it, and there’s no reason getting too emotional over it. And while it’s no constellation, at least they didn’t waste the giraffe meat.

      To be perfectly honest, I’m far more disturbed over what humans are too busy doing to other humans than just this mere giraffe.

      This news was sad and I feel bad for the thing when I read about it, but hey, that’s life. It’s best to save the high emotion for higher issues.

      • blueangel17

        Again, the way that you are characterizing this disturbs me. Why are human lives inherently more valuable?

        • sbglasius

          Then how come we breed and kill millions of cattle and pigs every day? Why is that more humane than killing a giraffe? If we set aside that they’re different species, I see no difference. In cow and pig farming you try to keep the genetics eight to breed the best animals, so does the zoo. They even try to give the animals a better life by letting them breed and take care of their offspring. That is in my book a much better way of living, than just stand and look at the spectators all day.

          • Teresa Wagner

            No animal should be in a zoo in the first place.

          • Teresa Wagner

            No animal should be in a zoo in the first place.

        • http://MacroManJr.blogspot.com/ Brian Lockett

          Just the simple fact that you’re even comparing values is killing your argument.

          If you’re questioning whether you as human are more valuable of not, consider that nothing else in nature does.

          We’re the only creatures who inherently measure other values. Your dog doesn’t do this.

          We are the ONLY ones who measure life’s value. What is more valuable in life than those in life who (typically) value life?

          Just the fact that you’re all “disturbed” is killing your entire argument. What is other life to you, that you should compare our lives to that of other creatures?

          The most valuable in life are those who value life most. Simply put.

          You want to talk about what’s “inherent” but purposely ignore the simple fact that we alone inherently value things beyond compare.

          Two dogs may go about caring for one another, but neither of them goes about in life worrying about the future of the other’s life. Neither of them stops and considers where is life going, and what’s at the end of life.

          And while other creatures most certainly do mourn (the emotional response to the reality of loss is something not exclusive to humanity), no other creature considers the nature of loss. They’ll miss their friend, but the loss itself doesn’t draw question about life with themselves.

          None of them have enough depth with themselves to take concern in issue of seeing another carrying themselves with good health, understanding for themselves.

          Why do we typically care for our offspring for nearly two decades, and continue to keep in their lives afterwards? Because not only do we care about them most, but we recognize that they should come first. We humans, we who are able to value life, value our own first.

          Nature values survival. Humanity values existence. To the point that we question it, even in issues like this one.

          Any “value” is dealing with how we ourselves measure things for ourselves. But such a measuring is inherent with ourselves.

          It doesn’t even have to be “inherent”–though, it is, since, again, we’re the only ones doing it and we’re the only ones having this conversation.

          The valuing kind that we are as humanity is more important in value in reality because we alone seek to preserve such values.. What is more valuable than those which preserve values?

          Nothing else cares more about reality or the reality of such things as this giraffe like we do. Why are we NOT more valuable as a species?

          Bees may make the honey, but we fight to save them. a mother dog may love her litter, but we care for the mother This giraffe had value to its life, but we’re here debating about the value of its life. You think a lion would’ve done as much?

          Well, of course, you don’t. You’re not here to present any sincere perspective here. You’re here to play a tactic. I deal with minds like you all day long.

          So, you can just stop lying to yourself in public here already. You’re not disturbed. Your claim of “disturbance” is readily insincere and your angle is pretentious.

          You’re arguing for pride, not concern. Though, even in just claiming to have such a “disturbing” concern in regarding values is killing your own shoddy point.

        • http://MacroManJr.blogspot.com/ Brian Lockett

          If you were the one to do it, dislikes aren’t counter-arguments.

      • Teresa Wagner

        The fact that anyone calls a sentient animal a “thing” is why animals are killed for human convenience, without any conscience at all.

      • Teresa Wagner

        The fact that anyone calls a sentient animal a “thing” is why animals are killed for human convenience, without any conscience at all.

    • Chris White

      All your questions are answered in the article, but you didn’t read it I see.

      a) Spay/neuter affects the mental health of animal, just as it affects humans. It is considered by most zoos to be more inhumane to neuter an animal than kill it. how would you feel if you were castrated against your own will?

      b/c)They are not allowed to give the giraffe to a non-member EAZA zoo. It has to do with health regualtions that are specific to the EAZA zoos. Also the genetic information the Marius would give to his offspring would be detrimental to the general health of the endangered giraffe population.

      You say they handled the news badly.. I don’t agree for one second Bengt Holst vehemently defended the decision. It was the so called “neutral press” that decided it was “cruel” “barbaric” “inhumane”, so I guess the zoo never really had a chance, since they were branded as murderers from the beginning.

      But again.. just read the article before commenting

      • Brian Lockett

        Didn’t see this comment’s notification sitting in my email until now. Anyways, I like to answer all replies to me, even if late.

        1) Spaying/neutering has individual health risks as well as benefits. There can come behavioral issues with it, but there can be major behavioral issues without it.

        Some of the behavioral issues attributed to non-sterilized animals are roaming; spraying of urine/excessive marking of territory with urine; and aggression, especially in males of many species.

        And please, don’t compare the situation of an animal to a human being. What’s best for an animal isn’t always what’s best for a human being. We castrate animals in our care for various purposes that don’t apply to our human circumstance.

        2) The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria consists of 345 institutions and organisations in 41 countries. You have 344 places to check out. In fact, there were EAZA member zoos offering to take him.

        They claim that shipping costs was an issue, but again, I pointed out that someone was willing to pay up to $700,000 for the creature–I’m sure they would’ve aided in that respect to save the giraffe.

        And what about the possibility of a wild reserve, which, if you read, I placed higher in priority as a suggestion?

        3) Even if they were truly out of options about the situation, and their position was truly justified here, they could’ve better gone about how they broke the news.

        They could’ve better stressed publicly that they were out of options, instead of a mere popular-science publication to do it. I didn’t see most of this information in the news reports.

        A simple better stressing of their being out of options would’ve been far better than just giving news sources a general notion that they were taking down a giraffe and feeding it to the lions.

        If I were a spokesperson for the zoo about the situation, just knowing how sensitive many people are about such issues and how many can misunderstand the situation, I would’ve made a very clear and public effort to make my institution’s situation unmistakably clear on BBC, CNN, etc, right from the very start.

        The issue apparently was one that had been an issue for quite a while before it happened, so they had plenty of time to better aid the situation with such a clear address to the public.

        Instead, most news sources had initially come off with an impression that they were taking this otherwise young giraffe and butchering it for food and space at the zoo.

        Again, that was a poor handling of the news.

  • Rodzilla

    A solution I haven’t seen, here, nor in most discussions I have read about this event: How about just leaving the animals in their native environments? By taking an animal out of the wild, humans are responsible for not only that animal, but its offspring. Now, some might say that captive animals are necessary, due to the dwindling wild herds. My response to that is that these endangered wild populations are largely the fault of humans, as well. Whether it is by poaching, or because they are killed to eliminate nuisance animals (which, by the way, have only become a nuisance because man is destroying their habitat for farmland, forcing the herds to raid the fields for food) it is not a natural occurrence. I wonder about the wisdom of keeping captive stocks of endangered creatures. Is there any advantage in having only a handful of a species left, on Earth? Given the knowledge that our acts are largely responsible for wiping them out, do we really believe that these captive animals are going to restore the wild population, some day? A lot of humans are arrogant enough to believe that they have been given control over this planet, and everything on it, yet they don’t really know how to properly do so.

    • jet fuel

      Now THAT says it all..

  • McAllister Pulswaithe

    I’m glad that these concerned technologists have scienced me on the facts about progress. Anyone willing to donate their body to science in support of the humane euthanasia of surplus humans, and have it publicly necropsied and then fed to the lions? Why not? After all, lions are CARNIVORES, and it wouldn’t be like cannibalism or anything.

    • Chris White

      Well you comment is meant as irony, but it is a fair point. It still does not however, have anything to do with the giraffe being fed to lions. Every a cow is killed to feed the same lions in that zoo.. we have to cry and make newspaper articles when they are killed? they are healthy animals too

      • McAllister Pulswaithe

        Giraffes are not cows, they are an at risk genus. And zoos are not slaughterhouses. There is a difference.

  • arie65

    So how does all this vitriol help us understand our barbaric morbid fascination with caging wild animals?

    • Chris White

      Back in the 19th century English zoologists wanted to bring the exotic animals closer to the general public, therefore creating zoo’s with similar conditions as the in the wild. It is given, that a zoo is NOT the wild, but animal health (physical, mental) is very good in by and large most zoo’s; and I would say experiencing animals in the wild is the most optimal. That said, most animals born in zoo’s don’t know how to behave in the wild, so in the respect, they are not “natural”. Your empathic key words are in some sense useless to the general conversation, since your opinion, that it’s “barbaric” is clearly against the evidence that it is not harmful for the animals health to live in zoo’s

      • arie65

        So it is your opinion that animal health physically and mentally is good by and large.. did you ask the animals in the cages how they feel… you simply fail to understand that putting animals in cages simply to observe them is “by in large” barbaric!

        • Name

          You come up with another solution that doesn’t include reducing the world human population by about six billion. These Zoo’s, that your so quick to condemn, are trying there best to solve a problem that they didn’t create. Your outrage is not worth an iota to the animals that are disapearing throughout this world.

        • Kari Lauver Hill

          And again so no one should own pets either as we cage them (ferrets,snakes,rats,lizards, etc) even dogs I guess. All animals were wild at some point. So we neuter dogs and cats and cows so there is not unwanted breeding how do we know they are happy? Lets ask our dogs to while we are at.

          • arie65

            Look my point is that keeping undomesticated animals for vanity purposes is barbaric in my opinion. Problem?

  • Chris White

    Reading some of the comments below makes me think people just came here, with their previous notions and beliefs just to preach. A good percentage of comments here, made it seem like the people who wrote them, didn’t even read the article.
    There were NO other options but to kill Marius, and if you still don’t get that read the article, I won’t waste time explaining it.
    Don’t portray and exemplary zoo, that takes educational responsibility for the nation. If you think a dissection is wrong then don’t go to the universties world wide, where even humans are dissected by medical students and animals by biologist – Go to youtube and you can even see Richard Dawkins dissect a giraffe, showing the central nerve system.

    • LaRee Bricco

      Oh, speaking of Richard Dawkins, I did see this one. Very educational.

  • Guest
  • Gilesia

    Ending a life of a healthy animal in captivity is a crime. There were other options, I am sure. The cost of transporting it to another place couldn’t have been higher than paying all these veterinarians and other people to kill it and study it. I am sure there are other options to study what a giraffe is built like and what’s inside it. Killing an innocent and defenseless animal isn’t an option in my opinion. Shame, shame, shame.

  • 2 Km N of GZero

    Nicely written and well reasoned. As usual, when science meets reality, it’s very, very messy. I doubt there was any choice that could have been made here that is free of moral ambiguity.

  • lball

    Thank you for this story. I never understood the “guilty until proven innocent(and we will never bother to check if you are innocent)” approach of the people condemning the zoo employees. The people involved have dedicated their lives, and professions to the care and perpetuation of these animals. They are closer to these animals than the many opinionated self righteous commenters. I have little doubt that the zoo employees care about all their animals. I do doubt that they took pleasure in what had to be a practical decision. I am not happy that Marius had to die, but everyone needs to remember that it takes more than a computer and an opinion to be an expert.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Gail Pollock

    The scary part is that the people that did had no emotion about it at all and think the rest of us are being silly. And, by the way, I thought the purpose of an endangered species program was to increase their numbers, not cull the herd.

  • Deniz Ozut

    One can not live “right” in a “wrong” world; said Adorno, or something similar to that. So how much we discuss over this issue, we can not come up with the best way to solve the “giraffe problem” of that zoo. Zoos are wrong inherently. They may be serving today for education of people and conservation of certain rare animals, but why people need zoos to be educated or why are those species are rare? We create problems through our vast disturbance on ecosystems and species and then we” tailor solutions” such as zoos. Then a certain zoo rip off one of its non-human guests’ in front of human guests and feeds it to another non-human guest.
    I wonder why they did not serve the giraffe meat to the watching human guests, the zoo could have earned much more money and this in turn would serve more tho the benefits of non-human guests of the zoo… and so it goes all the discussions here, if we keep on trying to solve or make right an inherently wrong scheme.

  • EquusMtn

    I’m not going to vilify anybody, but destroying a healthy giraffe seems like a drastic solution to an inbreeding issue. I agree that castration would not have been optimal, but I didn’t see the word “vasectomy” come up anywhere. That’s a much less traumatic surgery, and it would have allowed the giraffe to lead a normal life without reproducing.

  • jet fuel

    So the Giraffes are being bred in captivity by “Humans” due to a shrinking population in the Sudan caused by “Humans” which are poaching them for thier hair,skin and meat..
    Now there is one less healthy Giraffe regardless of its genetic make up , they are basically no different than the poachers.
    Actually they are worse because they actually knew the genetic makeup of it, allowed it to be born and then decided to kill it.

    Why not educate the people poaching them in thier native habitat so you don’t need captive breeding ?

    The solution is to just stop killing them , pretty simple..

  • Paulo Ramos

    People seem to be shocked with this episode, but very few are concerned about the loss of habitats and ecosystems.
    Saving animals should start by saving its habitats.

  • Teresa Patterson

    This is almost a parable for the world. Have all the unprotected sex you want, have the baby, then kill it. As a animal trainer who works a lot with happy neutered animals, I have a problem with allowing something as rare and special as a baby giraffe to be born only to kill it–especially when there are other groups willing to take the animal. If they feel so strongly about the animals having “the parent experience” and bearing genetically unusable babies, why not allow the unwanted babies to go to other homes with a contract that specifies certain requirements rather than just put them down. I have often sold horses with contracts that specify certain requirements of care and stewardship. If these giraffes are really that rare, why not make sure that some are sent somewhere else. That way if something happens to their herd, at least some of the individuals are safe–not just eliminated. (Think the loss of Lipizanner blood lines during war time)

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About Christie Wilcox

Christie Wilcox is a science writer and PhD Student at the University of Hawaii, where she studies the protein toxins in venomous fish. She is renowned in the science blogosphere for her delicate balance of contemporary science and scientific perspective seasoned with just the right amount of wit. Her award-winning posts have been featured in The Open Laboratory: The Best Science Writing On Blogs four years running and landed on the pages of major media outlets including The New York Times and Scientific American. To learn more about her life and work, check out her webpage or follow her on Twitter, Google+, or Facebook.

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@NerdyChristie on Twitter

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