COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The Copenhagen Zoo killed Marius, its 2-year-old giraffe, and fed its remains to lions on Sunday, ignoring a petition signed by thousands of people and offers from other zoos and a private individual to save the animal, officials said.
The zoo said it acted to avoid inbreeding among its giraffes in keeping with recommendations by a European association.
Marius, a healthy male, was put down using a bolt pistol, said zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro. Visitors, including children, were invited to watch while the giraffe was then skinned and fed to the lions.
Marius' plight triggered a wave of online protests and renewed debate about the conditions of zoo animals. Before the giraffe was killed, an online petition to save it had received more than 20,000 signatures.
Stenbaek Bro said the zoo, which now has seven giraffes left, was recommended to put down Marius by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria because there already were a lot of giraffes with similar genes in the organization's breeding program.
The Amsterdam-based EAZA has 347 members, including many large zoos in European capitals, and works to conserve global biodiversity and achieve the highest standards of care and breeding for animals.
Stenbaek Bro said EAZA membership isn't mandatory, but most responsible zoos are members of the organization.
He said his zoo had turned down offers from other zoos to take Marius and an offer from a private individual who wanted to buy the giraffe for 500,000 euros ($680,000).
Stenbaek Bro said a significant part of EAZA membership is that the zoos don't own the animals themselves, but govern them, and therefore can't sell them to anyone outside the organization that doesn't follow the same set of rules.
He also said is important for the breeding programs to work.