|Marius the Giraffe, R.I.P|
And until two days ago, like Pollyanna, I believed that was the mission of a zoo. But a little guy named Marius changed all that for me. He was 17 months old and his favorite thing was rye bread. And they murdered him because he had the wrong genetics for their breeding program. And who is the leader of this band of thugs? Not one of the grinning group of people who go to Africa to kill things from their Range Rovers --not the poachers who want an ivory tusk or an elephant foot for some sycophant's footstool. Not at all. The zoo manager arranged it, announced it in advance, and justifies it still by calling it culling. And he is really a nice guy at heart because he arranged for Marius to have a slice of rye bread before an employee shot a bolt into his brain. Not because Marius was ill and suffering. Not because he was violent or uncontrollable. But because he did not fit the genetic profile needed in the zoo's breeding program.
And the officials at the Copenhagen zoo excused dissecting him and feeding his body parts to lions while a large group of children watched because of the educational value of demonstrating to the children what they explain is the natural fate of giraffes living in the wild. But Marius was not living in the wild. He was never given the opportunity to drink from that pond in the savanna pictured in Frank Buck's lovely book. And that upsets me.
His survival would not have been an economic burden to the zoo. Two other zoos had offered to take him, genetics be damned. A private donor offered hundred of thousands of dollars to save him. So they killed him to prove a point. And thus, this is not about zoo management at all. Look at the facts. If they did not want him at the Copenhagen Zoo, there were other places willing to take him. So,in essence, this is all about power. They murdered Marius because they could. I find it especially alarming today to read accounts of other zoo keepers defending the killing of Marius but not the manner in which it was accomplished. The defense is that culling of zoo animals is a good thing. What the group in Copenhagen committed was not a needless slaughter of a trusting animal who was their ward, but a colossal P.R. failure. Have we become so callous that we can accept that?
And yes,I found the book on Ebay. It was published in 1945, part of the same printing a the book I won. And I bought it, another purchase of something without a use--like Marius. But a thing of beauty none the less, and with a message, none the less.
Said Buck in the book's foreword:
But only if we become proper custodians, Mister Buck!.