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Honoring Animals Purposely Killed by Zoos On World Zoothanasia Day

Honoring Animals Purposely Killed by Zoos On World Zoothanasia Day

In 2018, alongside Dr. Marc Bekoff, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, we declared February 9 as World Zoothanasia Day. This annual day of commemoration honors and raises awareness of the animals whose lives are needlessly terminated by zoos.

Numerous animals are killed by zoos when they don’t sufficiently contribute to profits or fit into the facilities’ master plans. Animals may be killed because their genes are “overrepresented” in captive wildlife populations or to make room for younger animals who attract larger crowds. Animals may also fall victim to what the zoo industry refers to as “management euthanasia” if they have illnesses that zoos don’t want to spend money treating. 

A victim of this senseless and cruel practice was an Asian elephant named Packy, who was held captive at the Oregon Zoo. In 2017 Packy was killed at the age of 54 despite showing no signs of discomfort from his incurable tuberculosis. In a meeting before his execution, a zoo staffer reportedly said, "How much is a 54-year-old bull worth compared to a four-year-old reproductive calf?" The Oregon Zoo was recently shamed as the fourth worst zoo in North America on our 2019 list of Ten Worst Zoos for Elephants.

In Europe, it is estimated that between 3,000 - 5,000 “surplus” zoo inmates are killed every year. In 2014, the Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark slaughtered four healthy lion cubs and a young male giraffe named Marius. Marius was shot with a stun gun, and in a shockingly callous public display, was fed to lions in front of children. The zoo admitted that it kills between 20-30 animals every year. Sweden’s Borås Djurpark zoo has killed nine lion cubs since 2012. Paradoxically, The European Association of Zoos and Aquariums explicitly recommends killing healthy animals in some species breeding programs.

These abhorrent practices are the inescapable culmination of a system in which wild animals are treated as property and have every aspect of their lives controlled in order to provide humans with entertainment. All animals who suffer in zoos have had their freedom and lives stolen from them. The decision to physically end their lives is the final chapter in the miserable story animals experience in captivity.

We look forward to the day when zoos stop this exploitation and transform into sanctuaries for needy animals to model respect and dignity for all sentient beings. 

Please consider making a donation to end the captivity and executions of innocent animals imprisoned against their wills in zoos.

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