COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) – A Danish zoo is planning to publicly dissect a year-old lion – a year after another park’s decision to dissect and skin a giraffe and feed it to lions triggered massive online protests, a zookeeper said Saturday, adding the purpose of it was to give people “a closer to the animals experience.”
The Odense zoo in central Denmark says the female lion was put down nine months ago because the zoo had too many felines. It said the animal, which has since been kept in a freezer, will be dissected Thursday to coincide with the schools’ fall break.
The event has so far attracted several protests but has been mostly well received in Denmark, unlike similar plans at the Copenhagen Zoo in February 2014. That zoo faced international protests after a healthy 2-year-old giraffe named Marius, also put down to prevent inbreeding, was dissected in front of a crowd that included children and then fed to lions.
Zookeeper Michael Wallberg Soerensen said the Odense Zoo, about 170 kilometers (105 miles) west of Copenhagen, has performed public dissections for 20 years and that they are “not for entertainment” but are educational.
“We are not chopping up animals for fun. We believe in sharing knowledge,” Wallberg Soerensen said. “It is important not to give animals human attributes that they do not have.”
Many Danes posted positive comments on Odense Zoo’s Facebook page, with some agreeing that children will not be harmed watching the dissection.
Such dissections often happen in Denmark. The Odense Zoo does it “once or twice a year” and it appears on the park’s weekly program. Kindergartens and schools often attend such events. There are no age limits for attending dissections.
Lions in captivity are considered young adults when they are eight to nine months, Wallberg Soerensen said, adding the animal was put to sleep with a bolt pistol to prevent inbreeding. He added “it is better to have space to promote the breeding of animals than securing for an individual who is inbred.”
“Having her in the same enclosure as her own father would mean that he would start mating her at some point and that would lead to inbreeding,” zookeeper Michael Wallberg Soerensen said. “We don’t want to deliberately allow inbreeding.”
Shortly after the lion was born in October 2014, Wallberg Soerensen started looking via a European network for other zoos where the animal could be sent. He said the zoo decided to put it to sleep after no other zoo was found.
“Believe me, that is the last resort. I would always prefer to send an animal to another zoo in Europe than having to put it down,” he added.
Each year, thousands of animals are euthanized in European zoos for poor health, old age, lack of space or conservation management reasons. Zoo managers say their job is to preserve species, not individual animals.
In the U.S., zoos try to avoid killing animals by using contraceptives to make sure they don’t have more offspring than they can house, but that method has also been criticized for disrupting animals’ natural behavior.