Children invited to watch a lion dissection in a Danish zoo

lion
Image caption Not the actual lion to be dissected

A zoo in Denmark will publically dissect a lion in front of children, despite an outcry after another Danish zoo did the same to a giraffe.

Odense Zoo, on the island of Fyn in central Denmark, plans to stage an "open to all" dissection during school holidays next Thursday.

The lion was recently put down because no other zoo wanted it.

Staff say they've done similar displays for decades and there's a clear educational purpose.

But Copenhagen Zoo attracted fury and even death threats to staff in February 2014 when it killed and dissected a giraffe known as Marius.

marius, giraffe, zoo, copenhagen
Image caption Marius being dissected at Copenhagen Zoo

Why was the lion put down?

Nina Collatz, head of animal keepers at Odense, told Newsbeat that the lioness was a young adult - about nine months old - who was humanely killed in February and then frozen.

We always try to give the lion to another zoo
Nina Collatz
Head of animal keepers

She said: "They can be a problem at that age... fighting can become common and mothers were not taking care of their cubs... adults can attack them... we do this to protect the cubs."

As aggressive behaviour was becoming more common a decision was made to try to send the lion to another zoo by entering it on a database widely used by institutions looking for "surplus" animals.

But in this case there were no takers so the lion was destroyed.

"This is a very normal process," says Nina.

lion, dissection, public autopsy, odense, denmark, zoo
Image caption It's not the first time Odense has dissected lions in front of children

Are public zoo dissections normal in Denmark?

Children have been able to watch exotic animals being cut up for decades at Odense Zoo, says Nina.

Maybe it's a Danish cultural thing
Nina Collatz
Head of animal keepers

Previous displays have included lions, a camel, a pony and a tapir.

Nina says: "Children try to come as close as possible and ask lots of questions, 'Can I see the heart?' It's not horror at all.

"Sometimes it's the parents who are more worried about the blood, the children are just very interested."

lion, dissection, denmark, odense,
Image caption Children with their parents and grandparents watch as a "lion piece" is held up at an earlier dissection

Are staff worried about more death threats?

After threats were made to Copenhagen zoo staff it's on Nina's mind.

"We have talked about it," she says. "I hope I don't get death threats, we will see what happens but the best thing is to have the dialogue."

Nina stressed to Newsbeat that the aim was an educational one, not entertainment, and that other people's views are given proper consideration.

"I respect them and listen but aren't some [critics] also meat eaters? We kill for eating, that is also killing, people should think a little further than the poor old lion is dead."

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