Little anger over Danish zoo’s plan to publicly dissect lion
Healthy year-old female was put down to keep inbreeding from further increasing the number of felines
copenhagen— A zoo in central Denmark is planning to publicly dissect a year-old lion that it has killed to avoid inbreeding — a year after another Danish zoo triggered massive online protests for killing a healthy young giraffe, dissecting it and feeding it to lions in front of children.
The Odense Zoo says the healthy young female lion was put down nine months ago because the zoo had too many felines. The animal, which has since been kept in a freezer, will be dissected Thursday to coincide with schools’ fall break, it said.
Zookeeper Michael Wallberg Soerensen said the Odense Zoo, 105 miles west of Copenhagen, has performed public dissections for 20 years. They are “not for entertainment”— they are educational, he said.
“We are not chopping up animals for fun. We believe in sharing knowledge,” Wallberg Soerensen said Saturday, adding that the purpose of the public dissection is to give people “a closer-tothe-animals experience.”
“It is important not to give animals human attributes that they do not have,” he added.
The event has attracted several protests but has been mostly well received in Denmark, unlike similar plans at the Copenhagen Zoo in February 2014. That zoo faced international protests after a healthy 2-year-old giraffe named Marius, who was also killed to prevent inbreeding, was dissected in front of a crowd that included children and then was fed to lions.
Many Danes posted positive comments on Odense Zoo’s Facebook page. Some agreed that children will not be harmed watching the dissection, which happens often in Denmark and is often attended by schoolchildren. The Odense Zoo does it “once or twice a year” and promotes the event. There are no age restrictions for attending the dissections.
Lions in captivity are considered young adults when they are eight to nine months old, Wallberg Soerensen said, adding further details of the reasons for the zoo’s policy.
“Having her in the same enclosure as her own father would mean that he would start mating her at some point, and that would lead to inbreeding,” he said. “We don’t want to deliberately allow inbreeding.”
Shortly after it was born in October 2014, Wallberg Soerensen started looking for other zoos where the lion could be sent. He said the zoo decided to kill the lion after no other home was found.
“Believe me, that is the last resort. I would always prefer to send an animal to another zoo in Europe than have to put it down,” he said.
The zoo’s announcement highlighted the substantial cultural differences between Europeans and Americans concerning zoo animals.
Each year, thousands of animals are euthanized in European zoos because of poor health, old age, conservation-management reasons or lack of space. Zoo managers say their job is to preserve species, not individual animals.
In the United States, zoos try to avoid killing animals by using contraceptives to make sure they don’t have more offspring than can be housed. Still, that method has been criticized by some for disrupting animals’ natural behavior.
“Americans are very uptight and easily get outraged, while Danes are more open-minded,” said Skyler M. Rowland, a 45year-old from Los Angeles who lives in Copenhagen.
One Facebook user wrote in Danish on the Odense Zoo’s page: “the world is NOT a pink Disney movie.”
“We are not chopping up animals for fun. We believe in sharing knowledge. . . . It is important not to give animals human attributes that they do not have.”
Michael Wallberg Soerensen,
zookeeper at the Odense Zoo
In February, children watched as a giraffe was dissected at the Copenhagen Zoo. Thursday’s dissection of a lion elsewhere has been scheduled for students’ fall break.