Thursday, 27 February 2014

Did Zoo follow guidelines when it killed Marius?

Remember Marius the giraffe? Copenhagen's scientific director, Bengt Holst, said Marius's genes were too similar to those of other animals in the European breeding programme, and he risked introducing rare and harmful genes to the giraffe population if he had been allowed to breed. This is nonsense. I challenge Mr Holst to tell us what 'harmful' genes Marius had. I doubt if he can. I also challenge him to tell us how he defines these 'harmful' genes.

Nor did Copenhagen's zoo follow fully the guidelines laid down by EAZA, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria. The guideline specifically states that

a post-mortem examination should be performed and biological material preserved for research and gene conservation. The results of the post-mortem should also be passed to the relevant programme coordinator, and full records of any results and outcomes should be archived. 
Marius was simply cut up and fed to the lions.

Now I must emphasise that I am not against culling animals kept in herds for preservation purposes. This is clearly necessary else the herd will get too big and also it becomes difficult to look after sick and ageing animals.  Inbreeding in a herd could also become a problem. But we need honesty in the reasons for a given cull.

The EAZA guidelines also state that each case must be considered on its merits and alternatives should also be considered. In this case other zoos had offered to take Marius. This alternative was rejected.

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