Danish zoo kills young giraffe to avoid inbreeding

Picture taken on Febuary 7, 2014 shows a perfectly healthy young giraffe named Marius who was shot...

Picture taken on Febuary 7, 2014 shows a perfectly healthy young giraffe named Marius who was shot dead and autopsied in the presence of visitors to the gardens at Copenhagen zoo on Febuary 9, 2014 despite an online petition to save it signed by thousands of animal lovers. AFP PHOTO / SCANPIX DENMARK / KASPER PALSNOV

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:36 PM ET

A healthy, two-year-old giraffe was killed by a Danish zoo Sunday, and some of its remains were fed to lions.

Marius was killed by a shot in the head with a bolt gun by officials at Copenhagen Zoo, which says the animal had to be put down because of European laws on inbreeding, England's Guardian newspaper reported.

Live footage of Marius' body being dissected by zoo workers while a crowd, which included children, watched was streamed by Ekstra Bladet, a Danish website. An announcer guided the crowd through the process and fielded questions.

"We know we are doing the right thing," Bengt Holst, the zoo's scientific director, told Danish TV2. "The many reactions don't change our attitude to what we do. It's very important to us that we take responsibility throughout. We need to have as healthy a stock as possible so we avoid inbreeding.

Several zoos, including England's Yorkshire Wildlife Park, offered to adopt Marius but Copenhagen Zoo said sending him to another zoo would also risk problems of inbreeding. It said Marius's genes were already well represented among giraffes at the zoo

Maria Evans, who spearheaded an online campaign to save Marius, said, "The zoo has raised him so it is their responsibility to find him a home, no matter how long it takes. They must not be allowed to take the easy option."

By Saturday, nearly 28,000 people had signed her petition.


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