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Euthanasia of healthy animals in zoos, and "Breed to Cull"

 
 
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  #1
Euthanasia of healthy animals in zoos, and "Breed to Cull"
Old 11-02-2014

As previously discussed on this forum during the Edinburgh discussion of the euthanasia of a litter of Red River Hogs, and *extensively* discussed in the past week with particular focus on Twycross, Copenhagen and Longleat.

I closed the Copenhagen thread due to it seeming - in my eyes - to be going in circles and gradually turning nasty. However, as this seems to have been a rather unpopular decision, subsequent to consultation with one of my longer-standing colleagues I'm reopening the debate for more general discussion

Looking through the closed thread, quoting the following very good comment from the anti-euthanasia side of the debate, which took the argument to a more general level, would seem to be a good way to get the discussion going again:

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Originally Posted by Communityzoo View Post
It won't be very many years until this same discussion takes place over the slaughter of a young elephant, or great ape. The argument will be made that it is no different from the culls of rhino, hippo, sea lions, or charismatic primates that will have gone before it, they themselves justified as being no different to culling, say, giraffe and antelope. The point for me is, in the context of a zoo, where is the line? Because the logical conclusion from this is to literally farm zoo stock for their genes, killing healthy adults while still young once they've produced the desired young to replace them. Tigers killed after producing one or two litters, why not? Siblings culled once weaned leaving one or two chosen individuals, destined to breed once and die within a few years. Countless species that never seem old, on display for their shorter, genetically-strategic lives.

This isn't a game ranch in Zimbabwe or Kenya, sustainably maintaining wildlife in their natural ranges, making hunting pay for conservation; its an urban zoo, where people come to learn. Sure, there are managed populations in those zoos, aimed at conserving European populations (and gene pools), but Copenhagen is no Durrell. Really, the connection between the giraffee EEP and wild populations is weak. So, is it really so important to weed out the genetic losers, or is there merit to be gained by exhibiting these substandard abherrations of nature in educational, non-breeding, ambassador situations, especially if there are collections wanting to take such individuals?

This issue is a philosophical one. Is the point of the zoo to be in awe of nature, to have respect for other forms, or to satisfy a curiosity for what the bowels and organs of a giraffe look like as they spill onto the floor? For all its aristocratic idiosyncracies, the way I was taught about conservation through my childhood visits to the Aspinall Parks, the reverence I was taught to develop for other life forms, seems lacking in what happened with this animal. Field culling deer or antelope, where rehoming and bachelor group formation aren't practical, is very different from the sideshow packaging of the slaughter of a wild animal as if a domestic cow.

I also take issue with what I see as dishonesty. The claims that relocating this animal would somehow be detrimental to the health of the population are embarrassingly weak, and seem cowardly. It's pathetic to watch such machismo, a director unable to summon the humility to admit that, in fact, there are plenty of solutions to their giraffe problem, to the extent that he ends up insulting the credibility of those collections that made offers to rehome. Does EAZA really share the view that the Yorkshire Wildlife Park is, by holding their current giraffes, wrongly taking up space that could be offered to genetically-important animals? Of course not. But this director, cornered like a schoolboy caught drowning a kitten, puts on a show of bravado and tries to criticise the judgement of another institution which has offered to assist him.

To me, this is not an argument about euthanasia, or even culling. Its about the shifting rationale for killing a healthy zoo animal, and the emergence of those institutions now also willing to make capital out of it.
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  #2
Old 12-02-2014

From the Maruis'case, severall conclusions may be made:
-Cull/put to sleep only when it's inevitable and without much PR, espceially if the animal is of charismatic species;
-Public dissections can be rather private ones for dedicated zoo members so common people won't be 'shocked'; let the blood out or it makes a mess;
-Preserve as much as possible. The future generation would appreciate high-quality mounts, skeletons and wet-preserved specimens. That may reside in museum as well as in the zoo itself.
-Don't let your lions get used to exotic meat so they would beg you for a giraffe
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  #3
Old 12-02-2014

I see nothing wrong with the culling of healthy animals if there is no alternative.

Some people say that Marius should not have been born if he wasn't wanted, when he was conceived there may have been a collection willing to take him but are now no longer able to do so.

As far as I can see Copenhagen tried to place him elsewhere without success.
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  #4
Old 12-02-2014

ZooSpot: Copenhagen Zoo, Marius the Giraffe and Zoo Management

I have written an article about it yesterday, due to the commotion about Marius euthanasia.
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  #5
Old 12-02-2014

I am intrigued, but not surprised at the number of posts about this topic on various threads. After learning from Yassa’s posting that euthanasia is common practice in Danish zoos in comparison to Europe, then why are some many zoochatters still dumbfounded by the fate of the giraffe,? do you not read previous posts before posting your own view on the matter?

In addition to this single individual Giraffes fate, I would also like to indicate that when other animals futures are drastically changed via death or via a ’good outcome’ and it is not zoo related, ie the illegal smuggling of animals around the world, the release of captive bred animals to the wild, very few people post their view on the matter. Three days ago whilst the forum was in uproar about one giraffe being euthanized, Vogelcommado posted in my opinion a much more important piece of news that 20 Orang-utans have been released to the wild in a protected area, great news, Great apes being released into the wild. Interesting information posted, at least I thought so .

My advice and it is given very friendly is that those who post their views on an individual Zoos choice to do what it did with an individual animal, would benefit of reading and doing a little research in to illegal trade of alive and dead animals globally and perhaps realise that seriousness of this in comparison. i.e. one individuals fate verses a species potential extinction.
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  #6
Old 12-02-2014

I think this all boils down to what each person values more: an animal itself or the future of a zoo population the animal belongs to?

If you value a long undisturbed life of each and every animal of a given species over anything else, you may be coerced to desicions that endanger or ruin the future of population of that given species.

If you value a healthy self-sustaining population of some (sub-)species over everything else, you may be coerced to decisions that are harmful to single animals, including an euthanasia of a few healthy animals.

Zoos must clearly explain this.

Animal protection and species protection are not always going hand in hand. As an example - sometimes it may need mass cullings while running nature conservation programs to restore a balance in an ecosystem, but these steps are clearly communicated with people, othervise nature protection may lose its credit and backfire.

If a zoo decides to cull an animal, it should also be able to explain the reasons behind it to the general public in a way that would be accepted by most. And this is the only problem I have now with the danish zoo director. The prague zoo director´s words that this whole issue has been run in a unlucky way (while defending reasons that led to the danish decision and so earning a lot of criticism himself) are even mild. The moment this issue got such international interest, Mr. B failed to his educational mission completely. As I can see now in discussion boards across several countries - he indeed caused a huge loss of credibility of zoos in eyes of general public. His incompetence just now will cause future economical and moral losses to zoos worldwide. Never mind his position inside EAZA organisation or his past accomplishments or his personal qualities or if he is right or wrong. His unability to convince, his attitude and unsensitivity in PR are damaging. If he would be working in a for-profit company, he would lose his job immediatelly.
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  #7
Old 12-02-2014

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jana View Post
The moment this issue got such international interest, Mr. B failed to his educational mission completely. As I can see now in discussion boards across several countries - he indeed caused a huge loss of credibility of zoos in eyes of general public. His incompetence just now will cause future economical and moral losses to zoos worldwide. Never mind his position inside EAZA organisation or his past accomplishments or his personal qualities or if he is right or wrong. His unability to convince, his attitude and unsensitivity in PR are damaging. If he would be working in a for-profit company, he would lose his job immediatelly.
Yes, exactly right
Here is a taste of what the English speaking social media world is saying:
https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Marius&src=tyah
https://www.facebook.com/hashtag/Marius

Last edited by Zooplantman; 12-02-2014 at 04:16 AM..
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  #8
Old 12-02-2014

Let's make a bet: in a few days, maybe a week, that giraffe will be all but forgotten. The social justice warriors will find another topic to rage about. Most of them, as well as the general public, will still consume their Big Macs at McD or have their latte macchiatos at SB. The problem of surplus animals in zoos and animal husbandry in general, however, will remain.
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  #9
Old 12-02-2014

I recall along time ago now reading an article on Tropical fish being bread at Chester zoo, the zoo was running out of space and there was talk then, of allowing private individuals with an above average interest in keeping fish to be brought into the breeding set up I wonder if that ever happened?
I think smaller animals reptiles, birds small mammals, etc could be fostered by people with the a special interest a good knowledge and the funds to give them a good life and still keep the gene pool intact. It wouldn't take much on the zoo's part to check out the foster home and do a couple of checks unannounced each year to make sure things are going OK. I know licenses etc may need to be obtained, but I'm sure some sort of umbrella arrangement could be sorted out and the zoo would still have ownership rather like Jersey zoo with it's animals still owned by the various governments in their native lands, or the zoo worlds Giant pandas.

I know it wouldn't stop mega fauna being PTS, but it my go some way to freeing up space on a regular bases, and help stem what has been the most negative zoo publicity this past week that we have seen in recent times.
I understand the need for Euthanasia as a tool of last resort, what I don't quite understand is the apparent determination of the zoo to rub peoples noses in it, however forward thinking it may have seemed at the time.
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  #10
Old 12-02-2014

Whether this current uproar dissipates in hours or days, the event itself will be dredged back up repeatedly for years to rally the public against zoos. The internet does not forget or forgive
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  #11
Old 12-02-2014

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pootle View Post

My advice and it is given very friendly is that those who post their views on an individual Zoos choice to do what it did with an individual animal, would benefit of reading and doing a little research in to illegal trade of alive and dead animals globally and perhaps realise that seriousness of this in comparison. i.e. one individuals fate verses a species potential extinction.
Apparently it never crossed your mind that among those people who are posting their views you may find exactly the same who paid for and supported in other ways the rescue and release of these 20 orang utans you mention (not even the first release by BOS) and feel just as compelled to speak up for just an individual animal.
The discussion would be helpful, if it starts a debate among zoos how to avoid the breeding of unwanted animals in future.
And Copenhagen may even turn some kids into vegetarians.
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  #12
Old 12-02-2014

Regarding the Copenhagen Giraffe euthanasia and euthanasia in general ;
It is clear that in Denmark they have very different views about the way euthanasia is carried out to us in the UK. I think the main objections were surrounding the way it was done. I am not against euthanasia as a zoo- animal management tool, however I do disagree with some of the ways it is performed. The "captive-bolt gun" is an out-dated and brutal method of euthanasia, I have been witness to its use before, about twenty years ago, and it is not something I would like to witness again I can tell you.
Equally I think it was completely unnecessary to butcher the giraffe in full view of the public, (even though they were Danes and probably not as bothered about it as some of us were?), I think the "educational value" of seeing a giraffe carcass dismembered in public is very low indeed. I still need a lot of convincing about why exactly that was deemed necessary at all to perform that in front of the visiting public and world at large ???
In actual fact giraffes are one of THE most popular of zoo animals with the general public and this is another reason why this has caused so much debate and outrage.
As I said I am not against euthanasia at all, BUT it must be done correctly, with as least stress and pain as possible and without the need for any fuss or undue publicity. It is an accepted practice in zoos, which most people are fully aware of, they do not really need it to be glorified in that way.
Euthanasia should be used as a last resort, when all other reasonable avenues have been exhausted, the problem is that some zoos DO actually use it as a means of disposing animals that are causing them a problem, it is sometimes abused. Bad animal husbandry is often rectified with the use of euthanasia and that is wrong. Population control should be in place first. Sure accidents do happen , ie; unwanted pregnancies etc.., but if and when they do, they should be managed properly, even if that is to the inconvenience of the zoos concerned, they need to face up to the mistakes they make and not use euthanasia as some kind of quick fix!!!!
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  #13
Old 12-02-2014

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zooplantman View Post
Whether this current uproar dissipates in hours or days, the event itself will be dredged back up repeatedly for years to rally the public against zoos. The internet does not forget or forgive
You're sure? Anyone except zoofans still remembering Magdeburg? Unless it's a nude pic of a starlet, a lot of things tend to disappear. An increasing flood of data and a shortening attention span only support this trend. And among younger generations, the attitude prevails: "if it cannot be found online, it does not exist." See you in a week.

Last edited by Batto; 12-02-2014 at 04:37 PM..
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  #14
Old 12-02-2014

If the giraffe calf born at Copenhagen had been female instead of male , I doubt there would have been any problem finding a collection to take it . This would also apply to elephants , gorillas and many other species .
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  #15
Old 12-02-2014

"Breed to cull" policy is prohibited by law as cruelty to animals in many countries. Imagine animal shelter which allows cats to breed, euthanises kittens and feds them to the dogs!

All these countries allow euthanasia, but as the last resort.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bongorob View Post
I see nothing wrong with the culling of healthy animals if there is no alternative.
Key words here are "no alternative". Copenhagen zoo did not consider separating sexes, contraceptive nor vasectomy. Other zoos use these tools routinely.

Yes, policy of Copenhagen Zoo outraged even the majority of zoo supporters at Zoochat. Naturally, almost all laymen are outraged. So Copenhagen Zoo clearly harmed the public perception of zoos worldwide and something should be done about it.

I think EAZA and WAZA should have clear policy on matters like euthanasia and vasectomy. The key should be the middle-ground policy legally allowed in all countries and acceptable to the majority of public internationally. So no keeping bears in tiny cages, no breed to cull, no castrating great apes, no chopping wings of birds of prey.

Most European countries use more ethical policies, so it is fallacy to claim that conservation forces EAZA or WAZA to accept very low standards of animal welfare in Copenhagen.

And yes, my words on another closed thread still apply - zoo organizations need a policy on several other matters, like allowing room for some unexpected births.
 


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