Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Statement on the killing of lions at Copenhagen Zoo

30 March 2014

Categories: Homepage News, Zoo Check Campaign News

The Born Free Foundation is appalled and baffled by Copenhagen Zoo’s decision to destroy 2 adult lions and 2 ten-month-old lion cubs.

Reports indicate that the Zoo based the decision to kill on the fact that they wanted to bring in a new male, and that a new male arriving in a pride in the wild would kill any dependent cubs.

Copenhagen Zoo recently generated global outrage and controversy with their decision to kill a healthy young male giraffe named Marius, and publicly dismember the body to feed to their carnivores.

The Zoo seems keen to demonstrate publicly their disregard for the lives of their animals and for public opinion, and in doing so demonstrate so much of what is wrong with the keeping and breeding of wild animals in zoos.

In the wild, incoming male lions would kill infant cubs sired by previous males. But Copenhagen Zoo is not the wild. Animals in the wild are generally not provided with food; veterinary care; protection from the elements and predation. Nor are they kept in areas hundreds of thousands of times smaller than their natural ranges; nor do they have their mate choices and companions dictated for them by curators. And they are not subject to endless streams of visitors.

The list of differences between the lives of animals in zoos and their counterparts in the wild is endless, and Copenhagen Zoo's claims that destroying these lions was in some way natural or replicating the "wild" are disingenuous at best.

Male lion behaviour in the wild in this regard is fairly well known. Incoming males will kill dependent offspring in order to stop their mothers lactating, which stimulates ovulation and allows them to impregnate the mothers and sire their own offspring. But there is categorically no reason that this need occur in a zoo setting.

 Euthanasia of healthy animals by zoos is widely practiced but rarely publicised. The “price of success” of captive breeding in zoos is a surplus of animals. These surplus animals present a problem for zoos limited by space, resources and the desire to keep animals that they think the public want to see. All too often, such animals are killed – they are surely not reintroduced to the wild.

Allowing animals to breed without considering lifetime care for the offspring is, in the opinion of Born Free, wholly unsound and unethical.

What is tragic is that captive breeding programmes seem to serve little function beyond the world of zoos: few, if any, species are genuinely being kept with reintroduction to the wild in mind. In the case of African lions, there is not even a coordinated captive breeding programme in Europe, and zoos are allowing lions to breed without a genuine conservation objective for the species.

Copenhagen Zoo is a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA). We hope you will join us in expressing outrage and disgust at the practices at Copenhagen Zoo by writing to EAZA to call for an immediate review of their euthanasia policy to ensure that healthy animals will no longer be destroyed in their member zoos:

Dr Lesley Dickie
EAZA Executive Office

c/o Artis Zoo - Amsterdam
PO Box 20164
1000 HD Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Email: /

And remember, you can vote with your feet and simply not go to zoos if you feel disturbed about what may be going in zoos across the region.

For more Information:

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Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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