family of lions

A family of lions     Photo: dnberty/Getty Images

Killing for Conservation

After Maurice the giraffe, Copenhagen zoo kills lions

The Copenhagen zoo that made international headlines in February for publicly killing and dissecting a healthy giraffe is under another barrage of criticism for killing four of its lions.

As the Guardian reports, two lions the zoo described as a "very old" breeding pair and their two cubs were put down on Monday. Zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro told reporters that the culling was necessary to make way for a new male lion to form a breeding group with the zoo's pair of 18-month-old females, and no other zoos were interested in adopting the lions.

"Because of the pride of lions' natural structure and behavior, the zoo has had to euthanize the two old lions and two young lions who were not old enough to fend for themselves," zoo officials said.

One protesting organization said that the zoo was playing God and should be boycotted until it starts respecting animals.

To protect populations against inbreeding and to maintain genetically diverse populations, between 3,000 and 5,000 European zoo animals are annually "management euthanized," European Association of Zoos and Aquaria executive director Lesley Dickie told the BBC. A few hundred of this estimate include larger animals such as lions and giraffes. This zoo euthanizes about 30 animals every year.

Last month, Bengt Holst, the zoo's scientific director, received death threats after Maurice, an 18-month-old giraffe, was killed, chopped up, and fed to lions (possibly these lions) in front of an audience that included children.