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euthanasia in zoos....

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by patrick, 14 Jun 2007.

  1. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    thought id'e move this one - continued from the melbournes thai elephants thread...

    zooboy - i have no idea what your on about.

    your giving very "safe" examples of when euthanasia is acceptable ie; when an animal is sick and untreatable, saying how much you respect each individual animal at the zoo, yadda yadda, then continue to comment on its perks in a way that almost condones its use in zoos.

    if you think there is a place for it as an effective population management tool
    specifically, then mention a situation in which you think its acceptable (and spare us the sick animal scenario - we are talking about destroying healthy animals simply for space requiremnets here).

    do you know why i'm so ademantly against zoos euthanising healthy stock?
    not becuse i place a higher value on a domestic cow as i do an inbred zoo-born eland, but becuse i think if zoos continue the practise and do it more openly, its going to reflet very badly on them indeed. it would expose the whole notion of a conservation ark as a complete farce because animals are being destroyed rather than released into the wild. i for one would have absolutely no respect whatsoever for a zoo that euthanised surplus animals either at birth or later in life.

    yes i know that technically a a breeding program, even of an endangered species can produce "surplus" animals. i understand that its a particuarly promenent issue when you have skewed sex-ratios like we so often see in rhino or giraffe. but most people don't understand how this stuff works. the zoos are openeing themselves up for a flood of criticism and fairly directed criticism at that too. how can the zoo continue to boast at the quality of care some its animals recieve when others are indeed "executed"?

    they can't.

    i say that if zoos ever dop find themselves in the narrow-minded predicament where they feel the urge to destroy otherwise, healthy, surplus stock, then maybe they should wonder why the %@&* they feel the need to breed them in the first place.

    i know the issue has arisen in zoo circles before but personally i hope that zoo management has enough foresight to see what a PR nightmare the whole issue would become, even if they do find it possible to put aside the distorted ethics of doing so..
     
  2. taun

    taun Well-Known Member

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    Its a good point, there is not many zoo's in the UK or world that will keep surplus animals.

    I can think of only 3 examples at the moment,

    Chester Zoo - Grevy's Zebra all males and have only had males since they came.
    South Lakes wild animal park - All male giraffe herd.
    Knowsely Safari park - All male giraffe herd.

    We need some zoo to be able to keep these surplus animals for breeding programs, as a new male birth of most species will be needed to moved out of the group and there isn't all ways somewhere for this animal to go.

    Chester zoo's Morrison (commonly known as 'rafters') the male giraffe born in 2005 will be moving soon so that he doesn't interbreed. Also Molly the new female calf is likely to be moved because Thorn there current breeding male is so unrepresented that they do not want to move him on.

    It is a sad reality if it comes to euthanasia.
     
  3. Zoo_Boy

    Zoo_Boy Well-Known Member

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    go abck and read my other posts, i ahve said most of everything, points for against.

    i dont like the idea either, and other arrangments should be made first
     
  4. Monty

    Monty Well-Known Member

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    I have a contreversal hypothetical for you all.

    How about if China continues its sucessful captive breeding of Pandas until they have so many captive bred Pandas an not enough habitat to release them into. (This may already have occured). They could aquire and restore more habitat and could release captive bred animals and form a new population if they could raise enough money.

    Would it be acceptable to offer canned hunts in a hunting reserve of 20 released excess captive bred males for $ 1,000,000 each if the money would go towards the increasing habitat and population of Pandas.
     
    Last edited: 14 Jun 2007
  5. ^Chris^

    ^Chris^ Well-Known Member

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    Surely, whether right or wrong, that's got to be the grandaddy of all potential PR disasters! Shooting Pandas? :eek:Haha!
     
    Last edited: 14 Jun 2007
  6. ZooPro

    ZooPro Well-Known Member

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    This hypothetical takes the discussion to a new level - hunting as a blood sport (although I'd hardly call "chasing" a giant panda any sort of challenge - they are about as mobile as a koala!).

    Personally, I don't think your suggestion has any merit in this discussion. The discussion is about the use of euthanasia as a managament tool in zoos, as a last resort to other methods of managing populations. Whether one is for or against this type of management, it is of course, only ever considered by zoo managers as a last resort to any other option, and is not taken lightly in any way whatsoever. Your suggestion of "releasing" animals for hunting is a completely different concept.

    My guess is that you think the hypothetical benefit of raising $1 mil per kill is potentially a good one? For starters, there are many zoos that would (and do) pay $1 mil per year to display pandas, without killing them. Also, if I was paying for a wildlife hunt (as I could do in a number of private game reserves in Africa for example), I doubt that I'd pay $1 mil to hunt an almost stationary animal - hardly a challenge.

    Euthanasia in zoos is a management tool, and it has recceived massive amounts of well-considered discussion and debate for many years, and no doubt, this debate will continue well into the future. No zoos take the matter casually. Zoos are about conservation, and they are about preservation, but they also require very careful management. And Pat, it's not anywhere near is easy as:
    I'm surprised to have heard this from you. There are many very valid reasons why euthanasia is required in zoos, and of course, like the zoo professionals, who actually work and breath this stuff every day, we could debate it endlessly.

    Without wanting to write an essay on the topic ;) take the captive insurance population of Tassie devils as as example (and this is a somewhat made up example). We set up 20 pairs of devils, with the aim of breeding as many as we can, and keeping a sustainable population going. We can only have 20 animals to start the population, with very limited opportunities for more imports from the wild.

    Devils must breed in their first one or two seasons, or they are highly unlikely to breed after that, so we'd try to breed all 20 pairs in the first season. Let's say they all produce two offspring, and the law of averages says half of those are males. We now have 40 pairs. We'd want to breed the young females in their first year or two, and most likely, breed from the parents again. We really don't need 40 males for this, so we send a batch off to smaller parks that just want to display devils. It doesn't take long in this region before we have flooded the potential "bachelor" spaces.

    We are also not allowed (at this point) to export devils overseas. So what do we do in the 3rd and 4th years, when our devil spaces are full? One option might be to pouch check at a very early age, and humanely cull a high proportion of the male babies. This would allows us to not completely take up all the available space with a bunch of "surplus" males, while continuing to breed from all the available females, before their reproductive lives are over. (The how, when and where of eventually releasing the animals back to the wild is another story.....)

    But this might show a fairly valid example of how euthanasia can play a very valid role in managing a captive population. It isn't always a case of "don't breed them in the first place".

    But frankly, I don't consider the hypothetical panda scenario in the same line of discussion, sorry.
     
  7. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    many reasons why euthanasia is required in zoos, agreed zoopro.

    however i don't think its use as a population management tool is particuarly good one.

    i expect this conversation is inevitably going to steer towards the "value" of the lives of different species. like virtually everyone, i too place a judgement, wether i mean to or not. the idea of culling a newborn elephant or gorilla calf disgusts me, but being the clever person you are zoopro, admittedly you came up with a very good example of a scenario where it doesn't seem so bad (marsupials - babies are still pracically foetus' damn you!! ;))...

    another example i thought of is ungulates. is culling off surplus deer, or antelopes much different to what a farmer does with cows? of course its not! in fact here in australia camels, bison, buffalo, deer - they are all technically domestic livestock anyway..

    but this conversation didn't start off placing a line on the sorts of animals that we thought could be culled and those we thought couldn't. it was talking generally about all zoo animals - and i'm sure theres not one of us that would be okay with dubbo culling male black rhino calfs from here on in.

    i think the argument that if you are not prepared to make space for the surplus stock, then you don't have a right to breed them is a fair one.

    i also think your devil scenario is a damn good example of a situation that understandably makes that commitment a very hard one to fulfill indeed..

    (i'm a little annoyed because in preemting something like this i was sure i dropped the word "exotic" and "endangered" in there somewhere, successfully ruling out a handful of grey areas, but now i cant find either of them in my previous posts!!!)

    okay! killing baby agoutis and foetal devils certainly isn't much different to the frozen baby rats we feed the snakes every day - but i was trying to make the point that becuase its a very dodgy area and it reflects badly on them (the zoos), i think they are best off avoiding the scenario all together. especially given the situations we here in australia face with lack of space. i don't want this to become a common practise.

    most of you would realise by now i'm no animal liberationist (not that i disagree with everying they say either)..

    however...

    for all of us there is going to be a line up the animal tree where we suddenly become outraged if that species was euthanised mearly for space requirements. and that line is going to be different for everyone. gorillas and elephants might be one extreme we most likely all agree is a no no, but what about fishing cat cubs? or binturongs or red pandas? meerkats - not so bad for us? i'm sure there would be a lot of upset schoolchildren if they knew zoos were killing them.

    so my point is - ethics aside (and i do think there are some ethical issues there, even though i myself too have a "line") is is something zoos REALLY need to do?
     
  8. ZooPro

    ZooPro Well-Known Member

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    OK, here's another completely fictitious scenario for consideration (it meets your "exotic" requirement Patrick, but not "endangered"). A zoo has a small pride of four middle-aged lions, a male and three females. All the females are on oral contraceptives - the zoo has no more space for lions, and all other zoos that would like to display lions have the numbers they can comfortably house. Likewise, most or all other zoos that hold lions have them temporarily or permanently contracepted for the same reason. Any additional animals would not only be surplus to the zoo, but would be surplus to the region.

    But the zoo knows that their females are nearing the end of their reproductive lives, and they want to breed a few additional animals to replace their current display animals for when they die (peacefully in their sleep, from age-related tiredness, of course ;) ). So they take one of the females off her contraceptives, nature takes it’s course, and she produces four healthy male cubs. The new cubs are eventually introduced to the existing pride, and all’s well (in the short-term).

    One or two of these young males could replace the ageing males, but the zoo really needs some additional females for the long-term survival of their display pride.

    So they resume contraceptives for the first female, take the second one off the pill, and allow her to breed. She produces two pairs of cubs, and eventually, all animals are introduced back into the pride. Let’s assume that during the period of the two litters being produced, the oldest male dies of old age. We’ve now got the original three females, four male siblings from the first litter, and two pairs of sibs from the second litter, a total of five females and six males. But the exhibit is really only big enough for 5-6 lions at the most.

    How should the zoo manage this, or how should they have managed the process more effectively? Could they? What to do with all these surplus males, when the zoo’s space, and the available spaces in the region are full? No overseas zoo is going to pay to import male lions from Australia – they are pretty much a dime a dozen anywhere, and freely available.

    I was trying really hard to come up with a species that was part-way between “couldn’t care less†and “OMG, that’s appalling†(e.g. crickets or mice, and gorillas or elephants). We all know that the bigger the species, the more people have an attachment to it, and the more “shocking†the thought of euthanasia is. I have no qualms whatsoever feeding live crickets to my frogs, but I’d draw the line at feeding a live rabbit to my dog. But who knows where the line is? But what about the lion example above?

    Unfortunately Pat, in this region, we aren’t blessed with an endless supply of animal spaces, especially for the larger more resource-hungry species, but we do have to manage them, for the long-term survival of the species. I’ll never forget one of my mentors, many years ago, drumming into me as a baby zoo keeper (yes zoo boy, I was a young pup once….. long before you were born ;) ), that when it comes to the long-term management of a zoo collection, a good zoo keeper or manager has to always consider the species and not the individual. This is often difficult to do, as zoo keepers and managers will always get attached to certain individuals – we wouldn’t be in the business of caring for wildlife or the environment if we didn’t care, but every now and then, considering the long-term management of a species, might just mean considering the loss of one or two individuals of that species.

    Patrick, you very well know, as do most of the forum members (I hope), that the vast majority of zoos in this region are well-run, professional, conservation-based organisations, and most of them have very strict guidelines about when euthanasia is appropriate and when it is not. Like it or not, when you work with animals, some of them die (and this past week has brought that to the forefront), and sometimes, some of them are euthanised. It is not a common practice in zoos, but it is a reality. I wonder why people don’t get up in arms about the farmers that collectively shoot (often very inhumanely) over a million kangaroos a year because there are too many of them? Or why we don’t get so upset when farmers knock off excess sheep and cattle?

    I couldn’t agree more about the line up the tree – it will be very different for all of us. I think I can also confidently say that the school kids who would get upset if they knew zoos were “killing†(sooooo emotive Pat!) some of their exhibits, would be equally as upset when they spend a day “behind the scenes†with a keeper, and they watch her or him kill a bucket full of day old chickens, guinea pigs, and rats and mice, to feed their charges. They point is, no one (hopefully) likes to see animals euthanised, but sometimes, it is a reality.

    And I thought I wasn’t going to write an essay? Oh well…..
     
  9. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    whoa, kay....(clears throat).... lets give this a go...

    good question...

    my answer to that is pretty simple though. any zoo that plans to breed lions to their own requirements needs to be prepared to hold more than 5-6 individual lions and more importantly, in more than one group.

    if our zoos really are faced with these sort of issues then maybe it the
    question should be "can we continue to maintain lions in this exhibit" rather than "should we or shouldn't we put this otherwise healthy animal down".

    okay, i'll be honest. i'm playing devils advocate here in one respect. i'm not quite as passionate about this as i make out. but some of the rhetoric here is precisely what people are going to use if it becomes common knowledge that zoo practice such methods even occasionally.

    surely, you can see how negative attention the " unnecessary killing" (and thats the words that will be used) of even the smallest of zoo animals will attract, no matter how hypocritical and rediculous it may seem. what about all this stuff because of the indian rhino death at taronga? now imagine the publicity if the euthanased one because of space..

    and there we go - unsupprisingly we land back on the "space" issue once again.

    zoopor you know i know zoos don't do this all the time and you know i know zoos are well generally managed and that that they are not completely removed from emotions involved in caring for their animals. its highly unlikely we will never see this happen with a charismatic species like an elephant.

    but is this the sort of practice zoos should rely on in the future? indeed how can a breeding program that aims to increase the numbers of a critcally endangered taxa such as a sumatran tiger create "surplus" animals in the first place? (i know how, but i'm talking broadly here). aftre all shouln't "surplus" animals be reintroduced to the wild?

    your arguing that it unfortunately, given the circumstances it is sometimes a necessity, but i think on the flipside that leaves open a pretty fair argument as to the effectiveness of these programs and the ethical tradeoff in doing so.

    i'll avoid sending this debate spiralling into one of those "do zoos really work" and "space vs diverse collections" directions and i personally can see your side of it zoopro. indeed i'm sure, the area being so broad and grey here, that you can create numerous scenarios where i might even support it. but i do feel pretty strongly that this is neither an ethically sound or responsible solution to the problem.

    i think zoos are going to have to find a way to avoid such measures as we see increasing pressure on them to be more transperent and accountable for not only their individual management descisions but for their existance as a whole.
     
  10. Ara

    Ara Well-Known Member

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    Maybe I'm going off on a tangent here, (if so, apologies.....) but surely the "limited spaces" we hear about are a self-inflicted problem for zoos.

    It seems to me that modern zoos HATE having more than one enclosure per species;

    for example:
    Taronga in the early sixties had 12 tigers housed in 7 different enclosures.
    Taronga today has ONE tiger enclosure and therefore a holding capacity of only two tigers.

    As any kid breeding budgies will tell you, you are NOT a fair dinkum breeder if you only have one cage. Of course, tigers need a whole lot more resources than budgies--I know that!

    Nevertheless, if a zoo has a commitment to a species they should be prepared to have more than one enclosure. And the argument that "we therefore won't be able to keep other species of big cats" doesn't wash, either.

    The fact that Taronga 40 years ago had 12 tigers didn't stop it also keeping 15 lions, 9 leopards, 8 pumas and 4 jaguars at the same time. While I am not so unrealistic as to suggest that we should (or even want to ) go back to such excesses, and we certainly don't want to go back to crummy old cages,surely the x amount of dollars used to set up one lavish enclosure would better be used for, say, a range of four more modest but still appropriate enclosures. The "conservation breeding " message would sound a little less hollow.
     
  11. Zoo_Boy

    Zoo_Boy Well-Known Member

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    hay ara

    i wille expnd, on 'limited spaces', yes it refers to physical space, but as well as recourses, such as keepr numbers, cause as today,thee isalot more to keeping tigers than just feeding and picking up crap.

    what does everyone else think
     
  12. jay

    jay Well-Known Member

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    ;)Gee zoopro
    your hypothetical lion pride doesn't sound so hypothetical.
     
  13. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    Well, this is a very well measured and intense debate to which I don't think I can much not already raised. ZooPro said why do people get emotive about a zoo euthanasia(especially when its 'revealed' through the press) but not over cattle/sheep or kangaroo killing. My guess is that its because most people have at some stage visited their local zoo, seen the animals, got to know and like some of them etc so this is directly within their sphere of experience (unlike events in the bush or on farms). So if an animal at the local zoo is put down, its only one step away from a similar event happening to a pet in their household. They may not know, or even have seen, the exact animal concerned, but will be familiar with 'the lions at the zoo' or the 'orangutans' or whatever, so that shared experience makes them feel more personally involved. That's my feeling anyhow.

    And yes, everyone knows there's a 'scale of outrage' with cockroaches and rats at one end, and elephants, pandas or gorillas at the other.
     
  14. ZooPro

    ZooPro Well-Known Member

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    Really? You must know something I don't.....
     
  15. Coquinguy

    Coquinguy Well-Known Member

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    i think the general public's take on euthanasia depends on how the general public views a zoo's role....in many ways public perception lags behind the evolution of our institutions...and therefore levels of acceptance vary from place to place. also, in country areas like where western plains zoo people tend to be a bit more realistic about humane killing of animals than in city areas. right now, as i write this, guy cooper is on abc national defending the zoo, we'' see how this one pans out. i just hope a asian elephant doesnt kick the bucket any time soon
     
  16. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    a zoo in germany culls and sells deer.....an animal type eaten, farmed and hunted the world over. yet the story is deemed newsworthy here in australia. as logical as such a decision seems, i wonder if zoo officials still feel it was worth it?

    German zoo sold animals as meat - World - theage.com.au

    zoos still haven't entirely shed the idea that they a "cruel" to their charges. nor should they have in my opinion, just look at this thread...

    http://www.zoobeat.com/2/animals-we-feel-sorry-5785/

    ...if you want to be reminded how many species there are here in australian zoos, that us zoofans think are not provided for in one way or another.

    is culling its own animals productive in helping help a zoo reverse this image and push its conservation agenda?

    my argument isn't so much about wether or not its right to cull a deer or even a lion for that matter. its about wether or not zoos should . and if so, does having an opaque attitude towards the practice do the zoo any justice?
     
  17. ZooPro

    ZooPro Well-Known Member

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    Patrick, you neglected to mention, as stated in the report, that "A spokeswoman for the mayor's office said deer were among the animals killed and sold by workers at Erfurt Zoo without permission over a number of years."

    You imply that that this was endorsed by the zoo officials. I think until (if ever?) we know the whole story, it's unfair to imply that the zoo officials might have thought it was worth it.

    I have no knowledge of the zoo in question, so let's make this a hypothetical discussion:

    Zoo A is an open range zoo, not really flush with funds, but they do some good work with a number of endangered species. They also have a number of large herds of deer, species that are available on commercial farms, and these herds breed really well. Is there any harm in them selling the excess deer to a local deer farmer, to help fund their conservation work? (Personally, I have no qualms with this).

    Zoo A then finds out, that the farm they sell the deer to, butchers the animals the next day, and sells the meat (and that's what many farmers do - raise animals, to be butchered and sold as meat). The farmer makes three times the amount of money that the zoo made out of the sale of the live animals (this is all hypothetical of course, leading to a point).

    So the zoo decides to butcher their surplus deer in the future, and sell the meat off, making three times the original amount, meaning that they can do three times the amount of conservation work with their non-commercial species.

    Is this a bad thing?
     
  18. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    *POP!* (thats the sound of my bubble bursting)...err you got me there zoopro. it does indeed say without permission thus rendering my use of this article as an example completely useless.

    its something vitally important i missed when i scanned the article. i was trying to highlight how even in the case of an animal most of us have no issue with, the media jumped apon it and it made news internationally. still, i fully accept your correction. its not an example with merit.

    however, lets continue the discussion. your hypothetical question?

    well it makes perfect sense. you know i personally have no ethical dilemma with that particular scenario. as we have agreed, fairly or unfairly, we all draw lines in the sand and make a decision about what we think is right or wrong. few would support gorilla or elephant euthanasia as a management tool, most of us will for a deer, bird or possibly antelope.

    if you want me define my line - well i acknowledge its no easy question. but suffice to say i was particuarly put off its been alluded to that at least one of our member zoos has recently employed the practice in managing it lion population.

    but my position remains unchanged. its not that i don't understand the dilemma, or that i am blind to the benifits of the practise.

    but from someone who sees themselves, in the bigger question of "what is the value of zoos", as a fence-sitter with two legs dangling over the pro-zoo side - as someone who feels they openly critcise zoos, not becuse i want to see them abolished but becuse i want to see them overcome their problems and better fulfill thier relatively newfound mission....

    i can't see how euthanasing animals to overcome problems arising from lack of space, is even remotely helpful for zoos images when they are trying to change the mindset that its about conservation breeding and not simply managarie maintaining.

    surely you can see that?

    but let me pose some questions back to you...

    do you think zoos should be more open about such pracises? if The Age published a story tomorrow about how melbourne zoo euthanised some its lions for spacial reasons, do you think it would reflect negatively or nuetrally on the zoo?

    do you personally believe that its an unavoidable necessity, or is it just the easiest solution given the circumstances?
     
    Last edited: 19 Jul 2007