Danish Zoos are apparently a lot more gruesome than American ones are, based on the fact that this week the Copenhagan Zoo shot a giraffe in the head with a bolt gun and then fed it to a lion–in front of school children. It makes you wonder about whoever the Assistant Director of Giraffes is over there.
When I heard about Marius the Giraffe getting whacked, I first thought, “Wow, Danes take school field trips VERY seriously.” Seriously enough to emotionally scar little blonde kids. But then I thought, why shoot a giraffe? It’s not like they’re overpopulating in northern Europe or anything. They never cause traffic accidents. And while I’m sure the lion enjoyed his meal, isn’t there some less novel animal we could have discreetly fed it, like a goat?
The answer, of course, is that the Danes had to shoot Marius. “Our giraffes are part of an international breeding program, which has a purpose of ensuring a sound and healthy population of giraffes,” said Bengt Holst, scientific director at Copenhagen Zoo. “It can only be done by matching the genetic composition of the various animals with the available space. . . When giraffes breed as well as they do now, then you will inevitably run into so-called surplus problems now and then.” Ah yes, surplus problems. I do not find Nordic scientists devising a eugenics program for animals in any way alarming.
For you see, the issue was not too many giraffes, but giraffe inbreeding. Apparently all of the other giraffes in Europe are so closely elated to Marius that he would have produced wonky, inbred double-cousins with them. Presumably a giraffe with a very tiny neck, like a horse, or one with an even longer neck, which would of course confuse air traffic. So I do understand the reason to prevent mutant Danish giraffes.
Now, here’s where I get really confused. Did anyone in Denmark want a pet giraffe? Were there any volunteers? Presumably most people would only have one pet giraffe. Would Marius have potentially jumped over his new owner’s hedge, sought out another giraffe in heat, then impregnated her like a stray cat?
If that’s the case why couldn’t they just neuter Marius? We have the technology for cats and dogs. For a few thousand dollars I could have done it, using no more than a sturdy latter and industrial-strength rubber bands. The problem, as I see it, is that the Danish zoo skipped “giraffe as pet” and “neutered giraffe,” straight to “shoot giraffe in the head and then feed his carcass to a lion in front of school children.”
Incidentally, Marius was shot with a bolt gun. This wasn’t inhumane so much as forward thinking–lethal injection would have contaminated the meat, and thereby hurt the lion. So we should give some credit to the zookeepers.
Poor Marius. We hardly knew thee.
Andrew Heaton is a writer and standup comedian in New York City. If this post made you laugh or think, kindly "like" it on Facebook.