[Taxacom] Killing of zoo giraffe to avoid inbreeding

Thomas Simonsen t.simonsen at nhm.ac.uk
Thu Feb 13 04:24:15 CST 2014

OK, I thought I would stay out of this debate, but I feel I need to chip in. I'm from Denmark (got my PhD from the University of Copenhagen/Zoological Museum) 10 years ago, but have then lived in western North America (Edmonton, Canada) for four years and London for almost five. 

I have, as an entomologist, had my run-ins with animals' rights people who find that I am wicked not only because I collect insect for research, but also very actively encourage children to pick up an insect net and go collecting. But I find this debate absolutely baffling! And I wonder if anyone would have cared if 'he' had not been called 'Marius', but simple been a non-anthropogenic 'male giraffe'? Mike Ivie is definitely correct that the animals' rights movement is pseudo science, but I don't think it can be compared to creationism or intelligent design - much of Europe simply doesn't have anything that compares to that. Fortunately! 
It is also interesting that almost all negative reactions have come from outside Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia. In fact they have come from the UK and non-European countries. The Danish society for the protection of animals issued a statement where they back the Zoo 100%. 

What was so insensitive about a public dissection? I can assure you that nobody were forced to watch. In my opinion it was great education, and if we had been living in Copenhagen I would have asked my 3-year old son if he wanted to see it. When we visit my in-laws' organic farm he knows that we often eat 'granddad's cow or sheep' or 'grandma's chicken'. He hasn't yet had the chance to watch one being butchered, but be assured he will get that chance.

The zoo in Copenhagen has been doing a great job for years both when it comes to education and conservation/research and that IS widely acknowledged despite current attempts to discredit them. And publicly dissecting an animal can definitely be a great educational tool. I remember many years ago when a dead mink whale (don't worry, it was found dead) was brought to the lawn in front of the museum and cut up as preparation for conserving it for the collections. It attracted a huge crowd and all the public reactions were very positive.

Dr. Thomas J. Simonsen 
Researcher, Lepidoptera Systematics
Co-Editor, Systematic Entomology
Department of Life Sciences
Natural History Museum 
Cromwell Road, London 
SW7 5BD, United Kingdom 
+44 020-7942-6548
"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'" - Isaac Asimov
-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Ken Kinman
Sent: 13 February 2014 03:00
To: Curtis Clark; taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Killing of zoo giraffe to avoid inbreeding

Hi Curtis,
           I think the phrase "deaths of unneeded offspring" would pretty well sum up why some have called Copenhagen Zoo's actions "arrogant".   And I'm just talking about the decision to cull Marius, not the even more insensitive public dismemberment that followed.  And the claim that contraceptives are problematic seems to now be somewhat outdated.                                                               In any case, although Marius was apparently unneeded for their particular program, that does not justify their excuses for not finding a suitable zoo or wildlife park very willing to take him.  And just where is their replacement for Marius going to come from?  Perhaps a male that might serve better in an "in situ" conservation program?  I would be hesistant to send a giraffe to Copenhagen Zoo from Africa unless it was imminently in danger of death in Africa.  And even then, I would tend to look at zoos elsewhere less likely to cull a healthy giraffe just for being to
 o ordinary genetically in their view.                                    ----------------Ken
> Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2014 21:59:54 -0800
> From: lists at curtisclark.org
> To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Killing of zoo giraffe to avoid inbreeding
> On 2014-02-10 4:45 PM, John Grehan wrote:
> > Only thing I am still puzzled about is how did the zoo allows this
> > particular giraffe to be produced by 'inbreeding' in the first place.
> That was my question as well, but I read that Danish zoos allow animals 
> to breed (rather than using contraceptives) for their physical and 
> psychological well-being. In effect (according to the article), they are 
> trading the deaths of unneeded offspring for better lives for all the 
> animals in their care.
> -- 
> Curtis Clark http://www.csupomona.edu/~jcclark
> Biological Sciences +1 909 869 4140
> Cal Poly Pomona, Pomona CA 91768
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