I was heartbroken and enraged when I accidently ran across a news item about the Copenhagen Zoo². The item reported the recent killing of four healthy lions to make room for a new, almost three-year old male lion.
It goes without saying that lions are majestic animals. These big cats are not only highly intelligent; they are the most socially inclined species of all the wild felids who live in prides that are carefully organized.
But, according to Big Cat Rescue and other organizations dedicated to big cat welfare, due to human interference and disease, lions in the wild in Africa and Asia are in grave danger of extinction. The lion population has dwindled as much as eighty-five percent over the past twenty years. These numbers are alarming and tragic to those who are aware how important they are in the overall ecology in the areas in which they reside.
For just for a moment close your eyes and imagine a world devoid of the close-knit family prides of majestic lions roaming their territories throughout the African jungles and plains. The thought makes me very sad.
While Big Cat Rescue and many other accredited sanctuaries engage in heroic work giving lions and other abandoned, abused or unwanted big cats permanent caring homes, not all facilities housing these exquisite animals are helping to protect them. Although there are zoos around the world whose mission is species preservation and accomplish this by breeding lions and other endangered large animals, why would a Denmark zoo purposely destroy four of their lions?
The Copenhagen zoo killed the sixteen year-old resident male heading the pride. Officials justified this action, claiming the new lion wouldn’t have been accepted by the pride as long as the old resident lion remained on the premises. The older female lion was euthanized at 14 years of age. Officals additionally explained that it was necessary to kill the adult lions to prevent in-breeding and it was essential to introduce an unrelated bloodline.
In a statement a zoo official said,
“Furthermore we couldn’t risk that the male lion [had] mated with the old female as she was too old to be mated with again, due to the fact that she would have difficulties with birth and parental care of another litter.”
Officials further justified the slaying of the two “helpless” lion cubs claiming they were too young to take care of themselves. And since he did not sire the cubs, the new lion would have instinctively killed them,
Apparently, the four lions were euthanized after the zoo was not able to find a facility to take them. According to the National Geographic, The U.S. Association of Zoos and Aquariums did not respond to requests to re-home the four healthy lions which the Copenhagen Zoo euthanized.
The new male lion is scheduled to arrive at the Copenhagen Zoo within the next several days and will then be introduced to the zoo’s two female lions who at two years of age are ready to be bred. The zoo is hopeful that these three lions will form the core of a new pride.
European zoos annually euthanize thousands of animals. Zoo managers claim that their job is to preserve the species, not to save individual animals.
Last month, thousands of animal lovers were outraged when the Copenhagen Zoo euthanized Marius, a healthy two year-old giraffe. The zoo manager even received death threats after the giraffe was dissected publically, in front of visitors, (including children). Zoo officials justified the killing of the giraffe stating that he didn’t fit into their breeding program. Sadly, no major attempts were made get Marius re-homed.
Apparently finding appropriate homes for these animals in an accredited sanctuary is not a top priority for the Copenhagen Zoo. This writer feels strongly that although species preservation is crucial, euthanizing animal as a “convenience” because they don’t fit into a breeding program, or they lack the suficient resources to find homes for them, shows little or no compassion or respect for healthy, living animals. It’s very disturbing to me that zoos claiming to conserve wild species put their breeding stock into a “disposable” category. Instead of killing them it’s high time that an ethical solution is reached mandating these zoos to do everything within their power to re-home healthy animals that are no longer useful in their breeding programs.
Recently a similar story came out of England, UK, of lions being mismanaged. For more information about the story, check out the video uploaded to YouTube Today World News
How do you feel about the Copenhagen Zoo’s actions? Tell us in a comment.
- BBC News, Washington Post, New York Times, Big Cat Rescue
- In en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copenhagen_Zoo