Conservation ethics: Jack Hanna lambasts zoo for butchering giraffe in front of kids
Marius, the 18-month-old giraffe, was shot in the head Sunday behind a patrician at the Copenhagen Zoo, then unceremoniously dissected, butchered and cut into pieces for lion food—in front of young children as an “educational” event—all because he didn’t fit into the zoo’s model for genetic breeding.
The zoo’s shameless decision is being condemned on a global level after petitions, protests and offers of up to $680,000 to buy the giraffe were not sufficient enough to prevent him from being euthanized and put on display in the most barbaric fashion.
At least one private individual and several zoos from Sweden and the UK put in offers on Marius that should have assuaged the zoo’s concern over inbreeding.
"We have tried to contact Copenhagen to confirm if they are looking to re-home their young giraffe, as this could be a solution that provides a positive outcome for everyone, including Marius" said John Minion, joint managing director of the Yorkshire Park Zoo.
Jack Hanna, popular animal activist and Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo in Ohio offered a scathing rebuke of the actions taken by zoo officials in Copenhagen.
"Abominable. Insensitive. Grotesque. This is not what we are about at the Columbus Zoo. Most zoos in the country don't do this," Hanna said. "I would have personally, with my money, paid for that giraffe to come over to our country and taken care of it."
Nonetheless, Copenhagen Zoo director Bengt Holst defended his decision and said he would do it again, while implying it may likely be repeated with other animals in the future, because “kids need to see what the real world is.”
Some of the children pictured at Marius’s dissection didn’t appear to be more than 4-6 years old, but zoo officials insisted it provided “a huge understanding of the anatomy of a giraffe that they wouldn’t have had from watching a giraffe in a photo.”
Most people were absolutely dumbstruck by such callousness and insensitivity conducted in the guise of a learning benefit for children; many so young they lacked the ability to comprehend what was happening, much less be anything but traumatized by it.
“Kids today see so many violent things” said Hanna, as quoted in the Dispatch. “What they do with their animal after they put it down is up to them, but to do it in public is not even comprehendible to me.”
Other options and the debate on ethics
Zoo animals do get culled for various reasons, but it is generally done out of public eyesight, which brings up the question of animal management and the role zoos play in helping to keep animals from extinction.
Many people see the actions taken by the Danish zoo as purely questionable ethics.
Ed Hansen, CEO of the American Association of Zoo Keepers, was appalled and said he had not heard of anything similar happening at any zoo in order to manage genetics.
“It’s not an accepted practice in any zoo,” said Hansen, who was a zookeeper for 23 years before beginning work for the association. “There are other options, like herd management so all the male giraffes are together.”
Hansen said if 100 zoo keepers were put into a room, that 100 of them would disapprove of what happened to Marius.
Castration was also an option, which is considered a risky surgery, but preferred over killing the animal.
Hanna said that zoos have the responsibility to find another home or alternative to euthanizing a healthy creature.
The worldwide Association of Zoos and Aquariums issued a neutral statement saying its “programs and procedures” aren’t the same as the European chapter.
Public-relations manager of the San Diego Zoo Christina Simmons offered the following opinion:
“A display of that nature in front of the public would not help us with the message we’re trying to get across,” she said. “Anything we do is meant to bring people closer to animals and the conservation of animals.”
Hanna responded bluntly to the “educational” defense by Copenhagen officials:
"Give me a break. You come here with your children to learn to love God's creatures and appreciate them to save them,” said Hanna in a Monday interview. “You're going to shoot a giraffe in the head, cut them up after you show somebody how to love a giraffe. This is incomprehensible to me."
Outrage continues to grow over the deplorable and ethically questionable actions by the Copenhagen Zoo, which infuriated some people to the point of leaving death threats on the zoo’s email and message system.
A new petition was started Monday calling for the termination of Copenhagen Zoo’s director Bengt Holst; a person many people are calling an insensitive cad, who has no business being in charge of animal conservation.
More reports from PrairieDogPress
Jean Williams, environmental and political journalist; PrairieDogPress writer; Artistic Director, Keystone Prairie Dogs.***PrairieDogPress is the media channel for keystone-prairie-dogs.com, which is a fundraising website to support environmental groups for extraordinary efforts to protect Great Plains habitat and prairie dogs in the wild. PDP uses humorous images, social commentary and serious-minded political reports to challenge government on numerous levels, including accountability to the people, the protection of threatened species, the environment and Earth’s natural resources.