Why did the Copenhagen Zoo have to kill Marius the Giraffe anyway? Ah yes, science vs. emotion

This is a terrible story on surface, but it does have a scientific background, apparently. The Copenhagen Zoo killed a two-year-old giraffe named Marius (anesthesia then shot it), then chopped it up for tiger/lion meat (this is where it gets hard to deal), and the reason was basically science:

“The purpose of the breeding program is to have as healthy a population as possible, not only now, but in the future,” said the zoo’s scientific director, Bengt Holst, in an interview with TIME. “As this giraffe’s genes are over-represented in the breeding program, the European Breeding Programme for Giraffes has agreed that Copenhagen Zoo euthanize him.”

There could have been other options, although none were particularly amazing — transfer to other zoos (the problem is their giraffe gene pools, which were over-represented with the same content as Marius), neutering (affects quality of life), and contraceptives (can cause renal failure).

It caused an uproar in the social world, no doubt:


Part of the issue here seems to be off the last pic — and similar pics you can find around the Internet — which is that the autopsy and ultimate cutting-up of Marius took about three hours, but some entire families stayed for the whole process. This caused people to go crazy on Twitter because OMG, young children are watching an animal be carved up, which, yes, is sad on surface — but “science” (which that was in the purest sense, in that a child could see how big a giraffe’s heart is, for example) and “emotion” don’t always compute. That was also the statement of the Copenhagen Zoo on the matter.

Essentially, this issue boiled down to Marius being “a surplus” giraffe in terms of potential inbreeding, and that’s why the Zoo had to kill him. The uproar comes from the idea that (a) a regal/majestic-looking animal was killed with a bolt gun and (b) could you imagine if someone said that about the human race? (“That person is surplus.”) Well, throughout world history, many people have actually said that, but that’s for another type of post. The situation with Marius is really sad, but ultimately does make sense.

Ted Bauer


  1. His sacrifice not be in vain…

    Marius is dead. Marius has been dead…
    Marius has been killed by human beast[1].
    Motiveless. Pointless. Grotesque. Sad.
    Blood from north to south, from west to east…

    Cruelty dirties the Earth with innocent blood
    showing zoos have no reason to exist:
    they are pain to death that spreads in flood.
    Marius is an hero who invites us to resist.

    Marius is another why to close all the zoos
    squalid recesses of the human intolerance[2]
    anachronistic jails, against Nature abuse!
    Witnesses of abysmal, persistent ignorance…

    Notes available here:

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