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article imageOp-Ed: Reflections on zoos and euthanasia

By Dawn Denmar     Feb 26, 2014 in Environment
The slaughter of giraffe Marius at a Copenhagen zoo has prompted interest in just how many healthy animals are actually slaughtered by zoos in Europe and worldwide. It seems numbers are unknown, however scientific thought is that slaughters are necessary
I don't know and you can call me old fashioned if you like, but I seem to think one of the reasons for growth in popularity of zoos and wildlife parks was due to interest in conservation and returning animals to the wild. Of course, the colonial viewpoint of the ancient Europeans of yesteryear was to go out and collect anything and everything of interest from farflung corners of the globe, but didn't the world move on somewhat during the 20th century?
Apparently, that's not the case zoos and captive animals, kept for human entertainment are here to stay and the Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark case is indicative of that fact. EAZA administer the European breeding programme for zoo animals and the BBC has researched animals slaughtered across Europe, but it seems numbers are unknown because zoos do not always record that an animal has been euthanised as part of cull procedures or breeding policies.
The Sydney Morning Herald sums up the breeding programme in an article discussing the ugly side to zoo captive breeding projects. Of course, animals are animals and people are people, so maybe once all the world's poverty and hardships have been sorted out we might be able to expect to see excess animals returned to the wild? Surely inbreeding and genetic mutations within the zoo community could have been kept to a minimum with responsible programmes initiated from academics that knew what they were doing?
One of the comments in the BBC report is from Simon Tonge, Executive Director of South West Environmental Parks in the UK who said: "If we ever got to the point of having to consider euthanasia for a gorilla… I would argue that that one gorilla would generate more interest and more column inches than 10,000 rats. So the numbers game for me is kind of irrelevant." Perhaps he is correct, however having seen the gorilla at Twycross Zoo, who used to hunch in his cage, looking out of the corners of his eyes at onlookers and with tears rolling down his face I have to say euthanasia of some creatures might actually be a kindness. That said Twycross - home to the PG Tips advertizing chimpanzees - did welcome the birth of a baby lowland gorilla in 2013 so perhaps the sufferings of the big guy were not in vain? It's unlikely from readings and musings on this and the BBC story though that any of these gorillas will be granted much freedom to roam or, indeed, get much by way of decent enclosures at Twycross Zoo, given that last time a family member visited the place the otters were even denied access to water in their enclosure.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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