According to a statement released on the zoo's website: “On monday the 24th of March Copenhagen Zoo received a new male lion from Givskud Zoo. This led to a change in the lion pride of the zoo which meant that the 16 year old male lion and the 14 year old lioness and two young lions were euthanized.”
The zoo claims that the “change in the lion pride” had to happen now because they have two young females from the 2012 litter and it is “ideal to keep these as part of the new pride and then find a suitable male.”
According to the zoo, they were concerned about inbreeding, stating if they didn’t put the older male lion down, he may have mated with the two young females, his offspring. Further, the old female was too old to breed, and they couldn’t risk her mating with the new male.
The statement further bullet points the following factors to justify the killing of the four lions:
• A new male could not be accepted into the pride as long as the old male was still part of the pride. The younger male would be killed by the older male.
• A new male could not be accepted into the pride as long as the old female was part of the pride. She would kill the younger male.
• A new male in a pride would kill all sexually immature young.
• It’s important that a new male lion arrives quickly after the old male is gone. Otherwise the Zoo risks that the females will gang up against a new male and kill him.
A statement issued by the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums on their website reads, “The Association notes that Copenhagen Zoo has not broken any of its codes of conduct, and that the zoo has been consistent in its approach to animal population management, and high standards of animal welfare.”
The EAZA goes on to conclude that while the agency “regrets the death of the animals in question, we recognize the right of Copenhagen Zoo to humanely cull them in line with their policies.”
The zoo gained notoriety earlier this year when it killed a healthy giraffe then dismembered the corpse and fed the meat to lions in full public view.