Second Danish zoo may kill a giraffe called Marius

Marius the giraffe pictured at Copenhagen Zoo on 7 February 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Thousands of people signed a petition to try to stop Copenhagen Zoo putting down its giraffe

A second Danish zoo has said it may have to put down one of its giraffes, despite a storm of protest after a similar move by Copenhagen Zoo.

The Danish Jyllands Park Zoo said that it, like the zoo in Copenhagen, would be doing so to comply with breeding programme rules.

Coincidentally, its giraffe has the same name as the Copenhagen giraffe, Marius.

Copenhagen's Marius was destroyed on Sunday despite a online petition.

At least two wildlife parks, including one in Britain, had offered to house the healthy two-year-old animal but zoo officials said the danger of inbreeding remained.

'Good company'

The Danish Jyllands Park Zoo, in western Denmark, said its Marius is a seven-year-old hybrid, which means he is a mix of different sub-species.

He is currently housed with a younger, pure-bred giraffe called Elmer - who happens to be the half-brother of Copenhagen's Marius.

The zoo is expecting to receive a female giraffe to mate with Elmer at some point.

But Jyllands Park is not a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and has not asked it to provide a female, a statement from EAZA said.

"EAZA cannot support any decision to cull the animal in question," the statement added.

"At the moment, there is no problem," said zoologist Jasper Moehring. "Marius is good company for Elmer and they are a wonderful attraction for our visitors.

"But the problem will be when we get a female. The two males will fight, which could result in the death of one of them," he told the BBC.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Before Marius was put down at Copenhagen Zoo, several institutions had offered to house him

Mr Moehring said the zoo would get six months' notice before the arrival of the female and its priority would be to find a new home for Marius.

But he stressed that the move must not harm the carefully regulated genetic make-up of the giraffe population, otherwise Marius will have to be put down.

And he defended the decision by Copenhagen to put down its Marius on Sunday.

'Best solution'

"I am sure the zookeepers at Copenhagen had a really bad day on Sunday because they love those animals, but they knew it was the best solution for the giraffes there," Mr Moehring said.

Copenhagen's scientific director, Bengt Holst, said Marius's genes were too similar to those of other animals in the European breeding programme, and he risked introducing rare and harmful genes to the giraffe population if he had been allowed to breed.

Mr Holst also defended as scientifically educational his decision to allow visitors - including children - to watch the carcass being skinned, cut up and fed to the lions.

His decision caused outrage among animal rights campaigners and has led to death threats against Mr Holst and his staff.

The news about Jyllands Park's Marius has prompted an offer of a new home from an unexpected quarter, the leader of the Chechen Republic.

Ramzan Kadyrov said in an Instagram post: "On humanitarian grounds I am ready to take Marius. We can guarantee him good conditions and care of his health."

He said he hoped his "proposal will find a positive response" from the zoo's management.

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