SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The Sacramento Zoo says the brutal killing of a healthy, young giraffe at the hands of Copenhagen zoo staff would never happen at its facility.
The horrifying images of the young giraffe named Marius being killed with a bolt gun, an ensuing autopsy in front of children, and the feeding of the giraffe to lions have spread like wildfire across the Internet.
Sacramento Zoo Director and CEO Mary Healy says that would never happen in Sacramento.
"We have never had an animal in our collection fed to another animal in our collection," she said. "We just don't feel that's the respectful way to treat the animals that've been part of our family."
She says there's a better and more humane way to manage the animal population. Every few months, the female giraffes at the zoo are injected with contraceptives. That prevents any so-called surplus animals from being born.
"I love our giraffes, and when I'm up on the deck, and I'm looking them in the eye—yeah, even walking by the exhibit this morning was more emotional for me,"she said.
Despite staff receiving death threats, the Danish zoo is standing by its decision, saying Marius had to be euthanized to prevent inbreeding.
It's the latest chapter in an ongoing debate over how zoos manage their breeding programs.
Many European zoos believe letting animals give birth like they do in the wild is more natural, even if it means some end up euthanized.
Zoos in America generally disagree. Healy says zoo animals are part of a managed population.
"And the word managed means we do certain things to take care of the animals that wouldn't happen in the wild," she said.
The debate isn't new. Only this time, the pictures sparked a global controversy.
If there's anything positive to come from this, Healy says it shows how passionate people are about giraffes. She says the incident could shed light on the declining population of giraffes in the wild.
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