Copenhagen Zoo Kills Four Lions: Was this Slaughter Necessary?

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.

Copenhagen Zoo Kills Four Lions: Was this Slaughter Necessary?
Photo credit: Flickr User: Cody Kwok (this is not one of the Copenhagen lions)
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

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?

Copenhagen zoo lions
Copenhagen Zoo 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.



  1. BBC News, Washington Post, New York Times, Big Cat Rescue
  2. In

25 thoughts on “Copenhagen Zoo Kills Four Lions: Was this Slaughter Necessary?”

  1. If wild populations can be controlled with birth control than why is it that this zoo thinks that they have to breed and then kill their animals? It just doesn’t make sense. With wild populations declining this zoo is successfully breeding animals and then killing them. A sad scenario for sure. Our local zoo keeps their elderly zoo animals and lets them live out their lives before purchasing new animals. This zoo is not be managed well at all. I know that keeping a healthy breeding population is important but this is just wrong.

  2. Heart breaking and cruel and I wish zoos had never been invented, why couldn’t people just leave wild animals in the wild where they belong? Why do they have to own and display them?
    I can’t bear to think of the frustration and unhappiness of any caged animal and that their lives are in the hands of unfeeling humans!
    They should be living free in the habitat which was intended for them.
    One day it will be too late, humans will have destroyed everything and that day is approaching fast now.
    The only hope for this planet is the end of the human species!

  3. This makes me sick. There could be other arrangements made than killing them. They could have either made different enclosures for them or moved them to a different facility. If money is that much of a factor, they should not be caring for any animal in the first place. They should let another facility take over and relinquish their entire operation. Don’t care about other opinions, that is mine and I stand by it.

    • The underlying cause of this behaviour by these zoo keepers is the failure of zoos in the 1st place. They are unable to look after wild cat species successfully. Wild cat species do not do well in captivity. They are unable to breed properly in captivity. They are stressed. They live in tiny environments which are unnaturally small. Lions and tigers require vast ranges in order to live naturally. The whole setup is a disaster and you have to do these ridiculous and cruel things to try and make it work so you compound the problem really.

      • So true Michael!

        The cubs were a “miracle”, in my opinion. That they didn’t find homes for CUBS is surely a disgrace.

        Furthermore slaying that giraffe got me so incredibly upset. I think you rememeber how I felt about that.

        These so called “conservation” zoos SHOULD be capable of making alternative plans for animals that need moving. It should be a requirement- otherwise the zoo should lose its permit as a conservation facility.

        • Thanks, Jo, for supporting my passionate comment. You can tell that I truly hate it. I hate this sort of thing with a vengeance and I know that it hurts me and depresses me. This terrible relationship that we have with wild animals and the wild cat species in particular is a great wound on the face of humanity and it is really about time we changed course on this.

    • Vicki, I totally agree with you. It makes me sick too. I’m fed up with this sort of behaviour from people who pretend that they are involved with conservation when clearly that is not a priority, far from it.

  4. hi guys totally wrong this. i was ashamed and shocked when i read this for the first time. This zoo should be shut down. Its just wrong on so many levels. Its a sad day for all animaals.

  5. I’m officially banned from being online for 3 mos. due to a medical emergency; but I am able to delete emails and pay bills, and your article cannot go without a reply, Jo. To keep it short and printable, may I just offer my humble opinion that those responsible for these killings should be fired and castigated. They are obviously without heart and lacking in soul. As for their arguments, IMHO, they are sick, demented and brutal. I’ll stop there, while I’m still printable. May the souls of those innocent beings be forever protected by the Almighty. And may the staff of Copenhagen Zoo be informed that lions are severely threatened and in imminent danger of extinction. Yes, it’s true.


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