Zoos are supposed to be happy, joyous, and wonderland-like places, right? That’s what I thought. Until I read this story: Apparently, the Copenhagen Zoo has been breaking the mold of a zoo being a positive place filled with joy and LIFE. Mostly the life part. The Danish zoo was all over the international news last week after killing four healthy lions to make way for new families, and build a “foundation of a new lion era” (they also recently killed an adult male giraffe, Marius, whose genes, they said, were already too present in the international zoo giraffe community). The story sparked outrage, including a Facebook page calling for the zoo’s closure with comments like, “Why are people visiting this abhorrent animal slaughter house?”
The zoo’s lion execution consisted of two cubs and their “very old” parents, a breeding pair. A representative from the Copenhagen Zoo said the cubs would never have been able to survive without their parents and would have been killed by the incoming male. The incoming lions, who supposedly make this killing necessary, are a male and two 18-month-old females. However, it’s possible to assume if these animals’ genes are not up to par, or they are no longer necessary in the Copenhagen zoo, they will suffer the same fate.
The Copenhagen Zoo has been very open about its practice of “culling” animals, and insists it’s in the animals’ best interest, that they have not broken any codes of conduct, and that they have been “consistent in their approach to animal population management and high standards of animal welfare.” A rep for the zoo stated that the zoo is a “no spin-territory” and they “can’t spin the news and remain credible to their audience, and they’ve chosen credibility to earn the trust of the visitors and the public.” The fact is culling is legal, everywhere except Italy, and it is done in most zoos! The Copenhagen Zoo is the only one so far to not hide the practice that the public sees as barbaric. In fact, culling has not always been their answer. There are a number of humane ways The Copenhagen Zoo has solved problems of overcrowding and inbreeding in the past: they exported 220 animals in 2012. Including an elephant, two red pandas, a rhino and two brown bears. Other zoo experts and animal rights activists argue that the park in Copenhagen had an “ethical obligation” to sterilize animals if it lacks space to keep offspring.
Apparently, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, governing 345 institutions, kills between 3,000 and 5,000 animals per year (.06% of the zoo population), ranging from tadpoles and insects to larger mammals, a few hundred are larger animals. We must stop this “zoothanasia”! To clarify, this was not euthanasia. By definition, euthanasia is to put down someone or something that is suffering, a mercy killing, these animals were murdered in cold blood. The animals labeled as “surplus” are being treated as disposable objects, rather than living, breathing, beings with young that depend on them and the ability to perceive pain and their surroundings.
Zoo life is not natural, that is a fact. The animals are not treated as well as they appear to be. All we see are smiling chimps swinging from trees, happy elephants spraying water with their trunks, dozing tigers, and seals being tossed fish, eating themselves into a stupor, resulting in them sunbathing on rocks. But what happens when the zoo closes? That information no one will release, no matter how much PETA wants to get their hands on it and how much a zoo insists they don’t withhold information from the public and lie by omission. Zoos do admit however, that their animals are NOT pets, and cannot possibly be as healthy or happy as they would be in the wild, even though these animals – most likely born in captivity – know nothing else.
The zoo states they had tried to place the lions elsewhere in other zoos and reserves, however there was no interest in taking them or even room to do so. Fat chance the public is going to believe that. Stating that they support “natural breeding cycles” among the lions and that they were not part of the breeding program, it was a necessary measure to take. If a college is focused on sports and a football player drops off of the team, are they to shot in front of an audience or families with children and fed to lion, tigers, and leopards, like the fate of Marius the giraffe? Like dogs at a puppy mill. According to National Geographic, Marius was offered a home at another zoo, where he could live out his life in peace without the risk of being slaughtered.
The public has taken the news of these zoo killings exactly how they should…utter outrage. Backlash galore. PETA, various animals rights organizations and activists as well as celebrities including Ricky Gervais and Kirstie Ally.
An online petition for the zoo to be closed and have all its animals relocated has garnered over 150,000 signatures, however the zoo has seen no drop in attendance. They have received tens of thousands of threatening emails, tweets, letters, and Facebook posts the CEO says. A spoof article has been making its way through Denmark suggesting that the zoo has put down older employees to make room for younger workers, who are more familiar with social media. The article is unfortunately in Danish, soooo good luck with that. If any of you HelloGiggles readers speak Danish…please summarize in the comments! Google translation was spotty…at best.
We were all under the illusion that a zoo was a happy, safe haven for animals. I am heartbroken to find something so special from my childhood and many others was such a grotesque lie. I grew up going to the San Diego zoo and seeing a giraffe with a crooked neck, it was in all the Los Angeles area papers when he died of natural causes a few years ago. Was he being kept alive for the money he was bringing in for the zoo? He was a living creature that deserved to live as much as your beloved dog or even yourself, and I don’t know if it matters, but he lived, despite his flawed genes.
Image courtesy of Flickr