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Another article on the Copenhagen giraffe (but one that is really worth reading).

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by sooty mangabey, 9 Jan 2017.

  1. sooty mangabey

    sooty mangabey Well-Known Member

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    I must confess to having long felt rather Marius-ed out - possibly not least because the argument is one that is never going to reach an easy conclusion.

    Nonetheless, this quite long article - Killing Animals at the Zoo - from the New Yorker is excellent, and certainly worth reading. There is some interesting discussion of the post-Marius aftermath, and the reaction from other zoos. I very much enjoyed the observation that, "Zoo directors in the United States and Europe have a recurring obligation, largely unknown to people who run art galleries and amusement parks, to explain to the public that their institutions deserve to exist, and aren’t sad, and will still exist in thirty years".
     
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  2. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    I'm a full convert to the 'breed and feed' model of population management. It benefits both predator and prey species. There is nothing about a cow that makes it less worthy of a full natural lifespan than a zebra or a giraffe.

    That's a separate point to whether Copenhagen should have taken such a demonstrative approach to it, though. Was the educational benefit to the relatively small number of visitors who got to see the dissection worth the global damage to the zoo brand? I think not. It's the dissection - and full-throated embrace of the public debate - that caused the damage, not the killing itself.
     
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  3. dean

    dean Well-Known Member

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    This was my thoughts from
    the begining, to me the zoo took things a step to far, we can't work in a small town or nation state way any more the world has no boundries with social media, and those opposed to anything will alawys shout longer and harder than those who like something. At least that is how it seams to me. What once happened in vegas and stoped in vegas now doesn't stop anywhere the damage roles on for an eternity.
     
  4. Coelacanth18

    Coelacanth18 Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the article, @sooty mangabey. I think discussion about zoo practices are good and while the whole event was undoubtedly ugly, it also opened up the opportunity to reflect on the intentions and purposes of zoos.

    While informed argument and a certain amount of skepticism is to be always encouraged, I also think that there should be deference and respect to experts. The Danes running the zoo are scientists and experts at what they do. Public opinion should not be ignored, but it should also not form the basis for decision-making. We have experts for a reason: so that they can make informed decisions about related affairs. With that in mind, while I have some reservations of my own about the incident and whether they made the right choice, I support the zoo's position of holding their ground and defending their actions, instead of bowing to public pressure.

    The article explains the American position pretty well. It is true that culling happens here as well, but is more common for what people think of as "lesser organisms" (anything that isn't a bird or mammal). In many cases it is simply necessary, if hard to stomach; one brood of frog eggs can produce dozens, if not hundreds of tadpoles, and zoos simply do not have the space to raise and keep all of them. The problem is less pronounced with animals who produce fewer offspring. The AZA focuses on proactively preventing unnecessary births through contraception and separation, and personally I prefer this method. Animals have at least as much a right, if not more, to live than to breed. For that reason, allowing animals the right to breed but not the right to live out their lives is a baseless and self-contradictory position in my opinion.

    On an end note, I wish that I saw more of that "Danish pragmatism" in American society, and not just from an animal rights standpoint.
     
  5. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member

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    Well, this article is certainly zoo perspective. But it raises several difficult questions.

    1. Zoo community (including the Copenhagen staff) apparently did not show a clear proof that zoos make the public care more for the wildlife. It should be easy to get. I find it strange and worrying omission (actually, the very publicity of the Marius scandal is such a proof. However, the zoo community needs better ones).
    2. Copenhagen does not produce any explanation of its decisions of killing, contraception or not breeding of particular animal. Why giraffe, but not a chimpanzee recently born at the zoo? Why other zoos can use contracteptives or separate the sexes? This clear explanation could much benefit the situation.
    Actually, from what the press suggests, Copenhagen appears to have a policy of unlimited all-out breeding and killing, which is avoided by most zoos in Europe.
    3. If zoos acknowledge that raising public empathy is their main mode of action, they should also be more sensitive in breed to kill policy. I see no sense in making big effort to build the PR, ten ramming completely insensitively into the public feelings in case of breed to kill policy.
    4. EAZA policy of killing rather than giving surplus animals to non-accredited zoos is not justifiable. Non accredited zoos provide the public contact with live wild animals, just as accredited zoos. Other zoos are bound to European regulations of animal welfare just as EAZA ones. EAZA simply cannot claim anymore they are the only sensible zoos.
    5. Danish should understand that their policy is just one of many possible interpretations of the ethical treatment of zoo animals. No one policy is absolute, and this one is certainly divisive. They should be sensitive also to other zoos and all parts of the public, which have different views.
    6. Copenhagen ethical stance is illogical. Suppose that to painlessly kill a giraffe is really more ethical than let it live an impoverished life. Then, by extension, shouldn't all giraffes in Africa be painlessly killed to stop their impoverished lives in small reserves, and free the land for human activity? This ethics turns the purpose of conservation on its head.
     
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  6. FunkyGibbon

    FunkyGibbon Moderator Staff Member

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    Good post overall but I think you have misunderstood "the Danish position" here. In my eyes, it is not a question of rights at all (please note that I am not arguing that animals have no rights, that's a different discussion). I think it's about quality of life. Breeding and raising offspring is clearly beneficial to most animals as natural behaviour. Somewhat counterintuitively, killing an animal has no effect on the quality of its life, so long as it is done quickly and humanely.

    I liked how this article focused on Holst. The impression given is of a very admirable man, who held his nerve and composure in extremely trying circumstances. Although I understand the argument that the negative publicity simply wasn't worth it, I rather like that he chose to make a stand on the issue and not bow to public pressure. We can see now that although the cullings continue and newspapers still try to 'repeat' the story, the nature of media cycles is that when the story stays the same it struggles to get traction. So although it was a pretty bloody battle for zoos I do think it was 'won' to some extent rather than lost.

    I may be putting a fist in a hornet's nest with this comment, as I wasn't on ZooChat at the time, but I'm glad the article drew attention to YWP's rather sordid little cameo. One of the more regrettable aspects of the whole story IMO, and something of a stain on an up and coming zoo that I really hope to visit one day.
     
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  7. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    Yes, with the benefit of two years' hindsight I agree. Very opportunistic and misleading, and no doubt didn't do them any favours in building the sort of networks that make or break ambitious collections like theirs.
     
  8. MRJ

    MRJ Well-Known Member

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    So then what is the point of accreditation?

    Presumably EAZA would say their accreditation is at a higher standard than European regulations.
     
  9. Mr. Zootycoon

    Mr. Zootycoon Well-Known Member

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    Some answers to your questions:

    2. For the record, there are health risks involved in contraceptives with giraffes (as the former director of the Rotterdam zoo said in an interview). Seperating the sexes is very difficult, because in that case you don't only need one very large giraffe paddock with stables and seperation facilities, but you need two of them. And of course, you would destroy the herd hierarchy.

    4. EAZA does give animals to non-accredited zoos, but only when no EAZA zoo wants the animal or can take care of it. EEP and ESB animals are a different story, they are not as easily distributed as non-EEP/ESB species. Only occasionally, as a last resort and often only to zoos who want be become EAZA-zoos in the near future, are EEP/ESB animals send to non-accredited zoos. To become an EAZA-zoo, a zoo actually needs to participate in a breeding program. But the coordinator can decide it is too risky to send it to those zoos. (they might breed with surplus animals or sell them)

    5. True, but they have the right to operate in the way they want (as long as they follow the laws and rules of both the government and EAZA). You just can't please everyone.

    6. Don't forget that the giraffe was killed for population management, and not to "save it from an impoverished life".

    ---------------------------------------

    I personally agree with Holst that we shouldn't "Disneyfy" nature. I think that is a big problem nowadays and zoo can do something about it, but many don't want to show the "ugly" side of nature and their animals.

    What I find interesting but also hard to believe, is this statement: "zoo visits made people seventeen per cent less committed to take action on habitat protection and creation, and nine per cent less likely to act against pollution and climate change." Does anyone has more information about this?
     
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  10. pipaluk

    pipaluk Well-Known Member

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    You may well be right and this was possibly a PR stunt, but 'sordid little cameo' is a bit over the top! It doesn't seem to have harmed YWP either!! Time will tell....
     
  11. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member

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    I understand nature of this argument, but I don't agree with it, and it is not followed by a vast majority of people working with animals.

    For example contraception of dogs, cats, horses also carries a diminished quality of life and a risk of medical complications. But nobody suggests unrestricted breeding, raising lots of puppies, kittens and foals, and killing them at the age they would normally become independent.

    The decision to breed giraffes in Copenhagen was to give adults the full life of raising young, although it was known beforehand there was no room for the young.

    I think it is a vague statement. What actually it means 'to Disneyify'? If it means using an emotional appeal of animals to draw visitors and promote conservation, Copenhagen did it already when it decided to display giraffes and other ABC animals.

    The strongest argument against going Marius is ultimately this: regardless of the personal opinion, it makes no sense to build a good publicity and then destroy it. While the zoo should not follow every demand of the public, I think no breeding to kill of giraffes is well within the reasonable limit.
     
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  12. HOMIN96

    HOMIN96 Well-Known Member

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    As my zookeeper friends say, people (and especially here in Czechia) tend to get REALLY sensitive when it comes to animals and it´s hard to communicate with public, when it comes to telling them that some animal died or even when it´s moving to a different zoo. So some of the Czech zoo directors took very hard stance on the issue and on the person of Mr Holst. (Director of Chleby Zoo basically labeled him as a criminal)
     
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  13. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    But this is done with literally billions of animals every year. If it is ok to breed cattle, grow them out for a year or two and then kill them as they reach maturity, why is it not ok to do so with eland or giraffes?

    I actually think the public would accept this concept pretty quickly. If you justify it as giving the prey species the fuller life experience of breeding and raising young to maturity and having normal, fully functional social groupings, whilst giving predator species access to the same food sources they would consume in the wild, that will make a lot of sense to visitors. Yes, some will viscerally oppose it but I'm willing to wager there would be a big overlap between those people and anti-zoo people.
     
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  14. pipaluk

    pipaluk Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, but in the eyes of the public. a high profile birth like a giraffe will be more significant than if a deer or antelope herd have half a dozen young in a year, they probably won't even notice if 2 or 3 go missing after a year! As for cattle bred for human consumption, you cannot seriously be comparing that to putting a bullet in the head of a year old giraffe?! Especially when there were plenty of zoos that would have taken it!
     
  15. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    It's certainly a tougher sell for a charismatic species like giraffes than for deer or antelope. But perhaps zoos could acquaint their visitors with the practice before attempting it with giraffes.

    What is the difference between cattle bred for human consumption and a giraffe bred for lion consumption? Yes, I am comparing the two because human discrimination aside, they are directly comparable.

    That there were zoos that would have taken it is not the point. There are not zoos that will take any and all surplus animals. Culling is a necessary part of captive management. It's hypocritical to tacitly accept it for some species whilst raising an outcry about others.
     
  16. Mr. Zootycoon

    Mr. Zootycoon Well-Known Member

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    First: it wasn't my argument, but a statement Mr. Damen (former director of Rotterdam Zoo and former giraffe EEP-coordinator) used when talking about the exact same topic.

    Second: It is very hard to compare veterenary care on giraffes (or zebra, eagle, seal and lion for that matter) to that of any of the domestics you site. We know an aweful lot more about health care in dogs and horses that in giraffes. And besides, we do cull lots and lots of dogs, cats and horses every year.


    It is really hard to determine if an animals born today is still wanted two or three years from now.
    If Marius had been a female, that would have changed the whole situation. Rotterdam zoo (again) also had two male giraffes on their surplus list this year, but they found a new place. If Marius would have reached maturity a little while earlier or later, it might have been a total different story. You just can't tell what will happen in the future, and you also work with (unpredictable) animals.


    It is a somewhat vague term (Disneyfy), but I used it in the same context has Holst did in the article. There was also an article in a Dutch magazine on keeping animals about this. To state it simple: it means people start to see (an treat!) real animals the same way (animation) films (like Disney's) and tv-series depict them: as almost human-like creatures, who see the world just like we do. Those films and series also often depict nature as the true paradise for animals, where they live in harmony together without killing and suffering. This, wrongly, is the image many people have about the wild
     
  17. pipaluk

    pipaluk Well-Known Member

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    You won't convince me, sorry! As for breeding to cull, I thought the EEP regularly instruct various zoos NOT to breed their animals as they are not required, why does this not apply to giraffes?! As for acquainting the public with a breed to cull policy, good luck, obviously the anti zoo mob don't exist in your part of the world! They are a serious threat in the UK and if I lost my favourite activity for the sake of a Danish egotist, I'd be furious! People across Europe were rightly outraged by Copenhagen's actions, it doesn't just affect that Zoo's image!
     
    Last edited: 12 Jan 2017
  18. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    That's fine, we don't have to agree, though there is an illogical component of your argument, which was what I was raising.

    With respect to the EEP instructions, the fundamental point I am putting forward is that those instructions are wrong-headed. So I'm not sure why you would cite them as a rebuttal.

    Zoo visitors have proved in the past that they can adjust to new concepts. I'm sure that 60 years ago there were doubts about whether visitors would accept zoos without animal performances or elephant rides. 30 years ago it was a hard sell convincing visitors that their right to see an animal didn't automatically outweigh an animal's right to be able to shelter from view within their exhibit. A lot of zoos have recently habituated their visitors to not having elephants on display; once they were the truly indispensable ABC species. Communicate well and don't treat people as children, and they might just surprise you.

    As I wrote above, I think Copenhagen really stuffed up by being so demonstrative with the public dissection, so I'm not insensitive to the need to manage public perceptions. I just know that those perceptions can be influenced and changed.
     
  19. Giant Panda

    Giant Panda Well-Known Member

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    Speaking as an undecided, who theoretically supports breed-to-cull (with exemptions) but can't defend Copenhagen's position...

    Expertise in one field doesn't make one an expert in everything. Aren't ethicists, rather than scientists, the experts on whether this decision should have been taken?

    If we're getting into the argument from equivalence, how about humanely euthanising human children after a year or two? You'd be hard-pressed to argue that a baby is more self-aware than a chimp, say, and it would be great experience for first-time mothers.

    I think there are two primary reasons why the above is considered unethical. The first would be that human life is inherently special, but this a) requires justification applicable to every member of our species but no member of another species (good luck with that...), and b) highlights the hypocrisy of zoos (including Copenhagen) anthropomorphising, then dismissing the public backlash against culling. The second is that killing a human baby would adversely affect others, notably the mother, but again this applies to the Copenhagen example - thousands were outraged and upset by Marius's death.

    In both respects, Marius was not equivalent to your average cow or pig, and Copenhagen's actions were mired in hypocrisy.

    I disagree, and the example you provide suggests you do, too. You describe giraffes and cattle as "directly comparable", but what about giraffes and jellyfish? Or primates and poriferans? In both cases, I think the invertebrates, which have neither self-awareness nor emotions, are less intrinsically valuable than the mammals, which are (potentially) capable of both.

    Where to draw those lines will always be an issue but, unlike previous posters, I think a taxon-based approach is appropriate. In fact, one of my main bugbears with the "animal rights" movement is that it follows Orwell's seventh commandment: all animals are equal. This contradicts one of the few hard-and-fast rules of ecology: species differ. So, where is the moral obligation to treat them all the same?



    As a general point, particularly pertaining to the discussion over "Disneyfication", you can go too far the other way (Denmarkation?). Would anyone here support adding lions to Copenhagen's giraffe enclosure, for example? I think not, because most accept we have a duty of care to zoo animals which we don't have to their wild conspecifics. Certainly the industry itself is structured on that assumption.
     
    Last edited: 12 Jan 2017
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  20. pipaluk

    pipaluk Well-Known Member

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    I can agree with your last paragraph, which highlights the biggest problem in the whole sorry tale, but I just don't think you'll ever convince the public that putting a bullet in the head of a cute giraffe they've watched grow from birth is better than sending it to another zoo!