Earlier this year, the Copenhagen Zoo euthanized a giraffe to avoid inbreeding, and then an entire lion family to make way for a new alpha male — reasons that many found insufficient to justify the killing of perfectly healthy animals. Now another zoo has followed suit: the Dahlholzli Zoo in Switzerland euthanized a bear cub to avoid being mauled by its father. Oh, and it gets worse: The Swiss zoo also plans to stuff it and put it on display... to teach children that nature can be cruel.
The irony is so painfully blaring that it would be funny, if the situation wasn't horrifying. The cub, known as simply Cub 4, was put down after its sibling was mauled to death by their father, Misha. When the zookeepers saw that the mother cub had started neglecting Cub 4 as well, they decided to step in and intervene. Well, not in the way you'd expect the zoo staff to intervene. Instead of separating the cub from the potential danger, they decided to kill it to save it the trouble.
According to CNN, the zoo's press release stated that it didn't want to interfere with the bears' "natural" behavior. Oh, I'm sorry, here I thought you were a zoo and that was exactly what you did. See, in the wild, if a mom starts neglecting her cub and the father poses a threat, the baby would have a chance of survival... because it's free! It can run away, hide, have options.
"Bears are loners and need room, and in zoos, there are already too many brown bears," Sara Wehrli, head of the Wild Animal Department of Swiss Animal Protection, told German-Swiss newspaper Berner Zeitung. "Letting the two get pregnant was wrong. You can't leave wild animals in captivity to 'nature'.... Whoever keeps them must take responsibility for them."
This week, the Dahlholzli Zoo announced that they would be stuffing Cub 4 and putting the 3-month-old bear on display. The cub's remains, which were deep-frozen, will be thawed, given to a taxidermist, and then used as an educational tool to teach visitors about the cruelty of mother nature. Because mother nature did this, right?
This is far from the first time a zoo has killed one of its inhabitants, and it won't be the last. The Copenhagen Zoo's reasoning for killing two healthy cubs and their parents was alarmingly similar to the Dahlholzli Zoo's explanation. They had feared that a new alpha lion would hurt the family.
A spokesperson told the Guardian, "Because of the pride of lions' natural structure and behaviour, the zoo has had to euthanise the two old lions and two young lions who were not old enough to fend for themselves."
Before that, the same zoo had euthanized a healthy male giraffe named Marius, because his genes were too similar with other giraffes at the zoo. Marius was also sacrificed for the sake of "education" when his corpse was dissected in front of a live audience full of children. (I don't know who these kids are with their nerves of steel, but 8-year-old me would have cried for weeks after seeing something like that.)
Before he met his fate, activists launched a petition to save Marius, urging the zoo to do the responsible thing, echoing Wehrli, and find him another home, "no matter how long it takes. They must not be allowed to take the easy option."
On the other side of the debate is European Association of Zoos and Aquaria spokesman David Williams-Mitchell, who told CNN that 3,000 to 5,000 animals are killed every year to manage zoo populations. He explained that "everything from tadpoles and insects up to charismatic megafauna like giraffes and lions" are killed, and that people only react when "cute, storybook animals" are killed.
Images: Dahlholzli Zoo, zverce.si