Animal Emotions

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Healthy Giraffe is Killed at Zoo Despite Offer to Save Him

Yesterday I wrote about the plight of Marius, a young giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo who was to be killed because he didn't fit into the zoo's breeding program. Today I learned he was killed despite another zoo offering to save him. To quote from a BBC article: The director of a wildlife park in the Netherlands said, "Zoos need to change the way they do business." Read More

Killing and Castrating for Profit

Killing Marius is just one example of a very disturbing trend of Zoos today. They want people to think Zoos are about Conservation and the protection of Endangered Species, but it’s really all about creating a “master race” of populations for captivity and economics. Breeding makes babies which bring $$$ to zoos with increased visitors. Killing or castrating them once they’re weaned lets zoos make more babies and thus the sad cycle continues.

Ten healthy gorillas were castrated by the EEP (European Zoos) recently, even though the SSP (North America) has the same challenges of surplus males and does not castrate, employing several viable and proven alternatives instead. The only other castrated gorilla was from the 1960’s in Las Vegas and done by notorious animal abuser Bobby Berosini. The EEP defends its use of castration based on spurious science, but it’s really about economics and making things easier for themselves, since a castrated gorilla not only removes the worry of unwanted breeding, but it “lobotomizes” the silverback into not creating problems too.

Zoos should be ashamed of themselves for these barbaric and unnecessary acts of animal abuse and cruelty.


Hi Marc

Sorry for the off topic, but I think that you will love this. Is a computer game where you are a wolf. I didn't play it yet, but is made for educational purpose. You can be a wolf in a rol playing game :)

I'm not related with this game, I'm only another animal lover.


We went through the "Zoothanasia" debate here in the U.S. between 20 & 30 areas ago. At invitation of Marc Bekoff, am posting the item below, which I passed out at the White Oak conference on zoo management that we both attended in April 1994:

Zoo Euthanasia
The Steve Graham legacy
Detroit Zoo director saw surplus crunch coming
(From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1994.)

DETROIT, Michigan--No one ever more directly addressed the
question of what to do with surplus zoo animals than former Detroit
Zoo executive director Steve Graham--and no one has ever been more
villified for it. The target of frequent exposes, letter campaigns
led by the Fund for Animals, almost continuous picketing by as many
as 150 people at a time throughout his nine-year tenure, and several
staff revolts, Graham finally quit in February 1991 following a
head-on clash with the Detroit City Council, whose auditor, Roger
Short, warned him on July 2, 1990, that euthanizing costly animals
without council permission amounted to unauthorized destruction of
city property. Graham performed several controversial euthanasias
anyway, and in August 1990 poured gasoline on his own figurative
funeral pyre by calling his mostly Afro-American staff "monkeys"--in
a city whose population is 76% Afro-American, whose Afro-American
mayor, Coleman Young, had been his most visible defender.
Graham was no diplomat, although in his first few years in
Detroit he tried, authoring numerous long and essentially friendly
letters to his most ardent critics, trying to explain his many
controversial actions. Some never forgave Graham for taking plastic
toys away from the primates and elephants during exhibition hours,
because he wanted the public to see animals acting as they would in
the wild. (The toys were returned at night.)
Others blistered Graham for trying to increase the zoo
animals' freedom of movement during the winter by leaving them
outdoors with the onset of cold weather, to grow longer fur and
become accustomed to the changing conditions. The weather changed
faster than some tropical species could adapt. Frozen capybaras were
found every winter from 1986 through 1988. Other animals purportedly
killed or injured by cold weather included kangaroos, swans, and
pelicans. "We have found animals dead in a frozen condition on
mornings after a cold night," Graham admitted, "but an animal who
dies on a cold night from whatever cause will freeze by morning.
When such animals are necropsied, we find that some other problem
caused the death...Other members of their groups did not 'freeze to
death', so that should be an indication that there was something
physiologically wrong with those who did die." Eventually Graham
cut the winter-related death toll to near zero by changing breeding
schedules so that tropical animals didn't give birth during the
winter months.
The April 1990 drowning of a chimpanzee in a protective moat
brought more outrage. Graham had used the last 10 of a once large
herd of wild but common African sheep called aoudads in a terminal
nutrition study, fed the remains to the zoo's carnivores, and added
their climbing rock to a new naturalistic chimp area. He kept the
moat, over objections from the International Primate Protection
League, because of concern for liability if a chimp ever escaped.
The use of the aoudads brought up another complaint. Graham had
introduced a farm exhibit. After each zoo season, cows and pigs
were slaughtered to feed carnivorous animals. Zoogoers objected to
the slaughter of animals who had been given names and been petted all
summer by children. Graham responded with an edict that no animal at
the zoo should be named, to discourage emotional identification with
animals by either public or staff.

Introduced culling by euthanasia

Graham caught the most flak, however, for insisting that
surplus animals should be humanely euthanized if they could not be
sent to other zoos accredited by the American Association of
Zoological Parks and Aquariums. From day one, he bucked prevailing
practice by refusing to sell animals to dealers, roadside zoos, and
canned hunts, which he called "shooting galleries--out of the
question for reputable zoos." In 1982 Graham sold 30 crab-eating
macaques to biomedical researchers at Washington University in St.
Louis, and he advertised five Japanese macaques in a research
newsletter in 1987, but he eventually became critical of the use of
zoo animals in laboratories, as well. "Even if an animal is placed
in a behavioral, non-invasive research study," Graham wrote in
1991, "most research projects are measured in months or at most a
few years. What then happens to an animal such as a primate, who
can live up to 50 years?" And sanctuaries, Graham barked, are just
no-kill shelters for wildlife, pointlessly keeping geriatric beasts
far beyond their natural lifespans in crowded conditions more
unnatural than those of zoos.
Revamping the Detroit Zoo surplus animal policy topped
Graham's job description when he was hired in 1982. His predecessor,
Gunther Voss, quit after being accused of taking kickbacks from
animal dealers who allegedly used the zoo as a wildlife warehouse.
Graham brought to Detroit a background uniquely combining zoo
experience with humane work. He had previously managed two other
zoos--and been president of the Antietam Humane Society, in
Waynesboro, Pennsylvania.
"We had a contract with a veterinarian to euthanize," Graham
told Ann Sweeney of the Detroit News. "I went over there one day and
found a 10-year-old kid killing the puppies and kittens. I fired the
vet, and for three months, I did it myself, humanely."
Graham learned to euthanize mothers with newborn litters by
lethally injecting the mother first, then injecting each of the
babies as they still clung comfortably to their mother's warm body.
As a humane society director, Graham was an outspoken advocate of
the needle instead of the gas chambers and decompression chambers
that were then the norm for euthanasia. Nearly 20 years later, the
crusty Graham still came close to tears when recounting his
euthanasia experience. But he came away from it believing humane
euthanasia could be a viable and essential option for reducing zoo
Graham's first public act at the Detroit Zoo was to euthanize
three popular but aging Siberian tigers whose genetic history was too
uncertain to permit their use as breeding stock. A zoo patron
unsuccessfully sued him over that action. When Graham euthanized two
healthy Siberian tigers in 1988 and 1989, also because they were
unsuitable for breeding, the USDA reviewed the Detroit Zoo's permit
to keep endangered species. Meanwhile, Graham thinned the aoudad
collection, numbering 76 when he arrived, who so densely populated
their quarters that newborns were repeatedly trampled to death. He
euthanized other animals as well: 282 in all during his tenure, 29%
of all the animals who were removed from the collection for any
reason. Among the euthanized animals, 165 were common hooved stock,
whom most zoos quietly cull each winter to feed carnivores. Most of
the rest were put down due to old age and/or poor health, but after
the first tiger euthanasias, Graham was tagged needle-happy.

Cut zoo death rate in half

Hardly anyone ever noticed that in the nine years Graham ran
the Detroit Zoo, only 2,032 animals died of any cause, compared
with 4,038 deaths during the preceding decade--even as the zoo
population rose from 1,432 animals at Graham's arrival to 2,700 at
his departure. He cut annual mammal mortality from 34% to 14%, cut
bird mortality from 15% to 3%, and cut reptile and amphibian
mortality from 40% to 1%. The difference came largely because Graham
culled the oldest animals, keeping as young and vigorous a
collection as possible.
This in turn led to the accusation, voiced by Doris Dixon of
the Fund, that, "Graham wants mommy, daddy, baby for his
exhibits," and therefore bred animals needlessly. Instead of
denying it, Graham rambled to reporters about the "considerable
educational experience" for zoogoers in seeing "the mother-infant
bond." He rarely sterilized Detroit Zoo animals, instead relying
upon sexual segregation for birth control, because he wanted the
collection to be a repository of genetic diversity.
As far back as 1976, Graham warned fellow zookeepers that,
"Surplus animals are the greatest problem facing zoos today." While
Margaret Shivener of Defenders of Animal Rights charged Graham with
"irresponsible overbreeding," Graham and Robert Wagner, then
executive director of the New York Zoological Society, pushed AAZPA
to adopt policies to discourage breeding except to preserve
endangered species, provide collection replacements, and feed
carnivores their natural diets.
In 1987 Graham and Wagner were instrumental in getting AAZPA
to adopt a code of ethics pertaining to the disposition of surplus
animals that is now the primary instrument of gradually cutting off
the supply of zoo-born wildlife to roadside zoos, canned hunts, and
auctions. Graham was villified for that, as well, losing several
close elections when he ran for AAZPA office and incurring public
opposition from the San Diego Zoological Society and former Columbus
Zoo director Jack Hanna, whose popular anti-euthanasia policies were
achieved by releasing animals to facilities Graham considered
"It hurts all of us when he talks about euthanizing animals,"
Hanna complained. "He's saying euthanasia is the way to go. How can
he say that when we are bending over backward in most zoos to explain
to people that we want their public money to preserve endangered
It was a familiar argument to Graham, who had already dealt
with the unhappy paradox of euthanasia when obliged to kill dogs and
cats at the Antietam Humane Society. Graham never liked euthanasia.
He just liked the alternatives less.
--Merritt Clifton

Boilerplate note from Longleat where 6 lions were killed

This is part of their response:

Longleat believes it would not have been responsible to translocate these animals to another collection, nor would any responsible zoological collection accept this particular group of lions, with the known high associated risks of neurological disorders and other genetically related health issues being passed on to later generations.

- why not just let them live in peace and safety and NOT breed them … for more on how zoo conservation programs are a not particularly well planned please see:

Zoo Conservation Efforts Lack Strategy and Are Too Random

Thank you for your email. We have released a statement which explains in detail the very difficult decisions we were forced to make. We have copied in this in full below and hope this helps to alleviate your concerns.

Kind regards,
Guest Services Team

Below are bullet points of the main issues covered in the full statement.

• Louisa the lioness arrived at Longleat in 2011 as an 18-month-old cub
• Louisa’s neurological condition was believed to be due to poor diet as a cub therefore there was no reason why she should not be allowed to breed
• Sadly Louisa’s first litter of cubs did not survive, there was a second, unplanned, mating which took place soon after and was not witnessed.
• The resulting offspring exhibited similar neurological conditions to Louisa, this prompted Longleat to do a thorough review of her genetic lineage
• This review uncovered moderate levels of inbreeding in her lineage 5-6 generations prior to her birth and having ruled out other causes was thought to be the most consistent reason for the condition noted in her and all of her cubs
• Due to the combination of genetic neurological disorders it was reluctantly, but unanimously, decided the only ethical action was to humanely euthanase Louisa and her cubs
• Decisions to euthanase are only taken as a very last resort once all other options have been thoroughly investigated
• Whilst this was the best course of action, and in the long term interests of the lion population as a whole, we fully understand that many will be saddened by the news, just as we were when having to make these difficult, but necessary, decisions

• Henry the male lion suffered severe injuries following a fight on January 7th – his wounds were so severe it was decided euthanasia was the only humane option on welfare grounds.

The lioness Louisa arrived at Longleat in 2011 as an 18-month-old cub.
At the age of 13 months, at the collection where she was previously held, Louisa exhibited neurological clinical signs which were thought to have been caused by inadequate nutrition leading to hypovitaminosis A.
This was treated at the time but never fully resolved itself and she continued to exhibit clinical signs of head tilt and tremors throughout her life.
Despite suitable nutrition these neurological signs were present in her cubs, which were clearly distinct from other litters in the pride as they all individually exhibited adverse neurological signs such as ataxia, incoordination and odd aggressive behaviour that were not considered normal or appropriate compared to other animals within the collection.
Reviewing the genetic lineage of Louisa and her cubs it was found both Louisa's parents exhibited relatively high levels of inbreeding, prior to arrival, at a grand parentage level and great-grand parentage level (in some cases grandparents and great grandparents being the same animals).
Further reviews of the pathology of related animals revealed a high level of brain tumours, which had not previously been reported in lions, as well as a general failure of normal neurological development.
Longleat has never seen these problems in the many other cubs born here over the years and has an extremely good nutritional programme meaning that dietary inadequacies have never been an issue.
The only consistent link with all these neurological developmental disorders has been Louisa and this was attributed to her confused and poorly managed genetic history prior to her arrival at Longleat.
Longleat believes it would not have been responsible to translocate these animals to another collection, nor would any responsible zoological collection accept this particular group of lions, with the known high associated risks of neurological disorders and other genetically related health issues being passed on to later generations.
After considering the pressures in the group, due to the recent increase in pregnancies, and the developmental disorders present in the cubs it was reluctantly decided that euthanasia was the responsible option for these individuals.
There have been specific requests on why we let Louisa breed.

We feel strongly at Longleat that a lioness should be able to behave normally and be given the opportunity to breed where appropriate.

However this must be balanced with careful overall population management - ensuring there is space within the pride or homes are available in other collections.

In some cases contraception, where suitable, is also considered; especially with animals that are either well represented in a pride or deemed to not be suitable to breed.

Louisa unfortunately lost her first litter of cubs in early 2012 and this second, unplanned litter, came soon after without any subsequent mating having been witnessed.

At that stage we believed the neurological condition was related to Louisa's inappropriate nutrition as a cub and that her cubs, in an appropriate environment, would be healthy.

Sadly it was apparent this was not the case with the second litter that survived but exhibited similar neurological signs to their mother.

As a result we reviewed her parentage and her genetic background and discovered the high level of inbreeding in her distant genetic past, which we believe is related to the conditions noted.

Henry was a separate case, and his injuries were a result of aggression from both his brother and Louisa, who attacked him on the 7th January.
His wounds were severe, and despite veterinary review and management, it was decided euthanasia was the only humane option on welfare grounds.
These decisions involve communication with all of our current staff, management team and with independent external ethical reviews undertaken to ensure we are consistent with best practice.
We fully understand that many will be saddened by the news, just as we were when having to make these difficult, but necessary, decisions.

Thank you so much for this

Thank you so much for this article. I was shocked and outraged by what happened to Marius and what may happen to a second giraffe As a lay person and a vegetarian, I really appreciate that there are members of the scientific community who are compassionate towards animals and realize that individual animals' lives are just as important as making the species genetically superior. I wish there were more people like you in charge of the zoo industry and I am inspired to read your other writings.

This is an interesting and

This is an interesting and discomforting topic.
One does feel that zoos should try harder. I get the impression that at present they have not truly defined their own purpose and mission.
Steve Graham is an interesting case. Putting aside that I am comfortable with some of his decisions, and equally uncomfortable with others, he seems far to sure of himself as a sole authority.

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Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.


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