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Decision To Euthanize Giraffe And Feed To Lions Angers Some Zookeepers

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - The decision by a Danish zoo to kill a giraffe named Marius sparked outrage around the world.

Copenhagen Zoo officials said they had to euthanize the healthy two-year-old giraffe because it was genetically too similar to other giraffes at the zoo and the zoo wanted to prevent inbreeding.

After the giraffe was killed, it was skinned and fed to lions while zoo visitors, including children looked on. Zoo officials said it was an educational opportunity.

"To allow an animal to live for two-and-a-half years, to give it a name and then do this in such a public way, to then butcher the animal in front of people and then say it's to teach people a lesson of how life is very insensitive," said Zoo Miami's Ron Magill.

Magill told CBS4's Maggie Newland it is important to maintain a healthy population of animals and that means avoiding inbreeding which can cause health problems.  However, he says this was not the way to go about it.

"I understand the principle of what was done, I don't agree at all with the way it was done. Euthanasia is a tool that is used in captive environments to help maintain captive collections in a healthy way," Magill added.

Magill  says the use of euthanasia is very rare.  Instead, animals are generally moved to other zoos within a few years of birth.

In Copenhagen, protestors stood with signs outside of the zoo.   Before Marius was euthanized, a petition to save the giraffe received more than 20,000 signatures.  The anger over the decision was made worse by offers from other institutions to accept the giraffe.

"If that is the case it makes it even more disturbing for me," Magill said.  "You have people willing to take care of it give it a life they were willing to adopt the animal and not some backyard roadside attraction but respected institutions why not give it to them?"

Officials at the Copenhagen zoo have reportedly received death threats since Marius was euthanized.

Magill says he fears this will reflect poorly on zoos everywhere.

"Unfortunately, it is giving zoos a bad name and people are going to paint with a really wide brush and say this is what zoos do.  This is not what zoos in this country do," said Magill.


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