A month after the Copenhagen Zoo created worldwide outrage by destroying a healthy 18-month old giraffe named Marius, it has killed four lions simply to create room for a newly arrived male lion.
The zoo has justified the killings of the two parents, ages 14 and 16, and their cubs on the grounds of genetic purity, which was the same argument used last month when news broke of Marius being shot in the head.
“If the zoo had not made the change in the pride now, then we would have risked that the old male would mate with these two females — his own offspring — and thereby give rise to inbreeding,” the zoo said in a statement on Wednesday.
The international ire of these killings has shined light on what is not a practice unique to Denmark, but rather a common occurrence in zoos across Europe. This has stemmed from a program for specific genetic mating across European zoos and aquaria, which over the years has been further accented by an ever-shrinking gene pool.
Equally reflected as of late is the disconnect and cultural divide between North America and Europe, where destroying animals in the name of conservation and genetic diversity is a far more widely accepted method.
Gerald Dick, a zoologist and executive director of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, speaking to this noted that while American zoos prefer to use contraception to prevent overpopulation or inbreeding, European zoos favour natural animal behaviour.
At the same time, those same European zoos make strict attempts to maintain only genetically pure animals, and to not waste space for those that they deem genetically useless specimen. Those “surplus” animals are simply destroyed.
This behaviour and cultural approach to conservation may evoke an accentuated facepalm however, as the same blind-eye cast in favour of natural animal coitus and behaviour is precisely what is leading to the deemed unfit and useless surplus of animals in European zoos, that are then destroyed on a whim and replaced by simply more animals, who themselves must then patiently wait for their date with the executioner.