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UCSZOO STATEMENT ON EUTHANASIA OF THE GIRAFFE MALE IN COPENHAGEN

(TRANSLATION OF THE CZECH PRESS RELEASE OF 10-02-2014 FOLLOWS)

10/02/2014

 

The Union of Czech and Slovak Zoos (UCSZOO) hereby issues a brief communiqué as to last weekend’s information on the euthanasia of an 18-month-old male giraffe at Copenhagen Zoo, and the subsequent media coverage. From a principal and/or moral point of view, there are no arguments in this case that make it possible to contest or even condemn Copenhagen’s decision. The essence of breeding animals in zoos is to create backup populations of species that in the wild are gradually losing their native habitats, which are being turned at an alarming rate through mankind’s endeavours into palm oil plantations, fields of grain or soy, or extensive human settlements; therefore, it is not an individual animal that represents the main object of the conservation activities of zoos. In fact, efforts concentrate on entire animal populations, i.e. groups of examples of a species, which are further sustainable in terms of health, genetic history (to prevent degradation) and welfare.

Furthermore, just like in the wild, the issue of redundancy is something that has to be addressed by zoos. Referred to as selection pressure, it is much greater for the males than the females of some species. The same principle, moreover, is maintained by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), in which we participate, be it at the level of a bi-national zoo federation (UCSZOO), or the framework of the full memberships of most Czech zoos. Euthanasia, i.e. culling, is a publicly approved formal procedure, for which there are applicable regulations in place, and it is the preferred option over placing the animal in sub-standard situations (inferior levels of climate, space, behaviour, social comfort, etc.), or including the animal in the collection "at any cost" because it may subsequently put the health of any offspring at risk.

Carrying out euthanasia is subject to strict rules and must take place primarily as quickly as possible without undue suffering. With all this in mind, the same attention needs to be paid to the fact that most modern zoos, undoubtedly including Copenhagen Zoo, first seek to avoid euthanasia. This is done, for instance, by increasing the holding area (where circumstances permit), arranging temporary all-male and all-female groups of animals, collaborating closely with other zoos, etc. Other, more controversial methods could involve the use of contraception (which is certainly not and cannot be a systemic or long-term solution, bringing with it a number of very serious problems and risks), or preventing specific groups of animals from breeding altogether.

Efforts of the greatest importance for facilitating backup populations of threatened animal species in captivity to offset extinction in the wild, however, particularly require a joint approach applied within international conservation breeding programmes. Unfortunately, even doing this shall not allow the zoos of today or tomorrow, in many situations, to completely avoid making decisions on euthanasia.

Dr David Nejedlo Ing Petr Čolas

President Vice President

CEO, Liberec Zoo CEO, Ostrava Zoo
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