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Denmark: Second zoo may euthanize a giraffe named Marius

By Laura Smith-Spark and Zahra Ullah, CNN
February 14, 2014 -- Updated 1139 GMT (1939 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jyllands Park Zoo says it may also have to euthanize a giraffe called Marius
  • It will be necessary only if space is needed for a new giraffe and a home cannot be found
  • Animal lovers were outraged when Copenhagen Zoo killed another giraffe named Marius
  • No decision imminent at Jyllands Park Zoo, which will explore all options, a zoologist says

(CNN) -- Could another zoo in Denmark kill a giraffe named Marius?

To some animal lovers, it sounds too terrible to be true, but zoo leaders say it's anything but a tall tale.

Just days after the Copenhagen Zoo killed a male giraffe named Marius to avoid inbreeding, another zoo said it might follow suit.

Jyllands Park Zoo said Thursday it may also have to "euthanize" one of its male giraffes -- coincidentally, also named Marius -- if a female is brought in to breed.

Zoologist Jesper Mohring-Jensen told CNN that Jyllands Park Zoo joined the same breeding program as the Copenhagen Zoo last year, which means it can't have too many giraffes with the same genetic makeup.

A Danish zoo has euthanized a healthy male giraffe, named Marius, saying it had a duty to avoid inbreeding. This photo of the giraffe was taken on February 7. The 18-month-old giraffe was put down with a bolt gun on Sunday, February 9, according to a zoo spokesman. A Danish zoo has euthanized a healthy male giraffe, named Marius, saying it had a duty to avoid inbreeding. This photo of the giraffe was taken on February 7. The 18-month-old giraffe was put down with a bolt gun on Sunday, February 9, according to a zoo spokesman.
Danish zoo kills healthy giraffe
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The zoo currently has two male giraffes, he said.

One, Marius, is not deemed useful to the program but is a useful companion to the genetically valuable second giraffe, which is in fact an older brother of the Marius killed in Copenhagen.

The zoo wants the second giraffe to mate, so it must bring in a female giraffe.

"At the moment, they are doing very well and are keeping each other company, but if there are some genetically more valuable giraffes in the program that need the space, we have to decide what to do with him," said Mohring-Jensen.

"We will of course try to place him in a suitable zoo, but if that is not possible, we might have to euthanize him. The program will give us notice well in advance, so I think we will have a good chance of placing him."

It's thought that no decision is imminent, "so the problem is not acute," he said.

Death threats

The killing of the Copenhagen Zoo's Marius opened wide divisions between animal lovers and zoo officials concerned about maintaining the genetic diversity of giraffes in the program.

Staff at the zoo received death threats as debate raged online over the killing, which took place despite a petition signed by thousands of animal lovers.

But Lesley Dickie, executive director of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, a European body governing 345 institutions, said those protesting were missing the point.

"I'm afraid that when we have limited space in zoos -- and it's limited because of problems in the wild, of course, and more and more animals need our help -- then we sometimes have to make these really tough decisions," he said.

'Surplus problems'

Bengt Holst, scientific director at the Copenhagen Zoo, told CNN the decision was made for the greater good of the giraffe population.

"Our giraffes are part of an international breeding program, which has a purpose of ensuring a sound and healthy population of giraffes," he said.

"It can only be done by matching the genetic composition of the various animals with the available space. ... When giraffes breed as well as they do now, then you will inevitably run into so-called surplus problems now and then."

The Copenhagen Zoo's Marius was shot by a veterinarian with a rifle as he leaned down to munch on rye bread, a favorite snack.

After a necropsy, the giraffe was dismembered in front of an audience that included children and fed to the zoo's lions, tigers and leopards.

READ: Opinion: Why arguments for killing of giraffe don't stand up to scrutiny

READ: Opinion: Why zoo was right to cull giraffe

READ: Zoo: Conservation isn't always clean

CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.

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