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Thousands of zoo animals killed in Europe every year

Published time: February 14, 2014 20:20
Reuters / Bogdan Cristel

Reuters / Bogdan Cristel

Amid the massive outcry at Denmark zoo for the slaughter of a perfectly healthy giraffe named Marius, it has been revealed that thousands of healthy zoo-kept animals in Europe are killed on an annual basis.

Every zoo which is a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), kills approximately five animals per year, bringing the total among the 247 EAZA constituent members to 1,735, according to the estimates of the association’s spokesman David Williams Mitchell, cited by the Associated Press.

However, this statistic exempts all zoos and animal parks across the continent that do not belong to the organization.

Out of ten of the zoos contacted by AP, two refused to make any comments on the number, while four said that they kill between “one and 30 animals every year”. Four said that animals were only killed if severely ill.

“A fraction of 1 per cent” of killings are for the purpose of preventing inbreeding, according to David Williams Mitchell. Endangered species are said to be among the animals killed, with EAZA stating that five giraffes in total have been killed in the zoos since 2005. Skansen zoo in Stockholm has put a bear and a Eurasian lynx to sleep, with Helsinki Zoo killing one Alpine ibex. Denmark alone kills approximately 15 animals on a yearly basis.

The Captive Animals' Protection Society told AP that some 7,500-20,000 animals are deemed “surplus” at any one time. In addition to the euthanasia imposed on animals, transportation to other countries is a possibility. Earlier this week a German zoo declared that it was dispatching one of its monkeys to the Czech Republic to prevent inbreeding.

Jyllands Park Zoo in Denmark was the subject of additional reports that another giraffe named Marius would be killed shortly after the death of the first Marius. However, EAZA stated firmly that: “There is no plan, and there has never been a plan to neither move or euthanize any of our giraffes. The media stories are only based on a hypothetical situation.” Jyllands is not an EAZA member, so its figures would have been exempt from its study.

Moscow zoo condemned the practice. “We believe this method of selection is extremely cruel,” said the Zoo in a statement released shortly after news that a second Marius could be killed. “Though we, like everyone else, we love kids, we have to sterilize the animals to keep them alone.”

Director of the Great Moscow Circus on Vernadsky Prospekt Edgard Zapashny sent a formal letter addressed to the Danish ambassador to Russia, highlighting how his brother (Askold Zapashny) offered money specifically to save this animal [the second giraffe] and have it transported to Russia. “Whatever the giraffe was doing in the future, the most important thing is that he will live,” said Zapashny, prior to the news of the second animal’s possible demise.

Over 100,000 people added their names the original petition to close the Copenhagen Zoo and Jyllands Park Zoo, while 27,170 signed the initial petition against killing the 18-month old animal. Bengt Holst, Copenhagen Zoo’s director of research and conservation argues that Marius' genetic makeup was ‘overrepresented’. He has received death threats as a result of the controversy.

Zoo managers told AP that their role was to preserve the species rather than the individual animal.

“Zoo breeding programs serve no conservation purpose because animals born in zoos are rarely, if ever, returned to their natural homelands,” PETA press service told RT. “For anyone who cares about giraffes and other individuals serving life sentences in zoos, the giraffe "culling" should confirm that zoos are hideous institutions that do not deserve public support.”