A Danish zoo is planning to publicly dissect a year-old lion that it has killed to avoid inbreeding — a year after another Danish zoo triggered massive online protests for killing a healthy young giraffe, dissecting it and feeding it to lions in front of children.
The Odense Zoo in central Denmark says the healthy young female lion was put down nine months ago because the zoo had too many felines. It said the animal, which has since been kept in a freezer, will be dissected Thursday to coincide with the schools' fall break.
Zookeeper Michael Wallberg Soerensen said the Odense Zoo, 105 miles west of Copenhagen, has performed public dissections for 20 years. He says they are "not for entertainment" but are educational.
"We are not chopping up animals for fun. We believe in sharing knowledge," Wallberg Soerensen said Saturday, adding that the purpose of the public dissection was to give people "a closer-to-the-animals experience."
"It is important not to give animals human attributes that they do not have," he added.
The event has so far attracted several protests but has been mostly well received in Denmark, unlike similar plans at the Copenhagen Zoo in February 2014. That zoo faced international protests after a healthy 2-year-old giraffe named Marius, also killed to prevent inbreeding, was dissected in front of a crowd that included children and then was fed to lions.
Many Danes posted positive comments on Odense Zoo's Facebook page, with some agreeing that children will not be harmed watching the dissection, which happens often in Denmark and is often attended by school children. The Odense Zoo does it "once or twice a year" and promotes the event on its weekly program. There are no age restrictions for attending the dissections.
Lions in captivity are considered young adults when they are eight to nine months, Wallberg Soerensen said, adding the animal was killed to prevent inbreeding.
"Having her in the same enclosure as her own father would mean that he would start mating her at some point and that would lead to inbreeding," he said. "We don't want to deliberately allow inbreeding."
Shortly after the lion was born in October 2014, Wallberg Soerensen started looking via a European network for other zoos where the lion could be sent. He said the zoo decided to kill the lion after no other home was found.
"Believe me, that is the last resort. I would always prefer to send an animal to another zoo in Europe than have to put it down," he said.
The zoo's announcement highlighted the substantial cultural differences between Europeans and Americans over zoo animals.
Each year, thousands of animals are euthanized in European zoos for poor health, old age, lack of space or conservation management reasons. Zoo managers say their job is to preserve species, not individual animals.
In the U.S., however, zoos try to avoid killing animals by using contraceptives to make sure they don't have more offspring than they can house. Still, that method has also been criticized by some for disrupting animals' natural behavior.
"Americans are very uptight and easily get outraged while Danes are more open-minded," said Skyler M. Rowland, a 45-year-old from Los Angeles who lives in Copenhagen.
One Facebook user wrote in Danish on the Odense Zoo's page: "the world is NOT a pink Disney movie."