Staff at a Danish zoo where a healthy giraffe was euthanized have received death threats as debate rages online over the killing, which took place despite a petition signed by thousands of animal lovers.
Several staff members were targeted after the animal, named Marius, was put down, Copenhagen Zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbæk Bro told CNN on Monday. He added that Bengt Holst, director of research and conservation at Copenhagen Zoo "received threats via telephone and e-mails."
While some American zoo officials have said this is not standard practice for their facilities, the executive director of a European body governing 345 institutions has said that this can be chalked up to a misunderstanding about what is "normal in Danish culture" and that zoological experts could do a better job of communicating.
"People have perhaps lost sight of the bigger picture and perhaps we as zoos have not been good at explaining why on very few occasions we need to make decisions like this," said Lesley Dickie, executive director of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria.
The Copenhagen Zoo said it euthanized Marius on Sunday to avoid inbreeding. A veterinarian shot Marius with a rifle as he leaned down to munch on rye bread, a favorite snack. After an autopsy the giraffe was dismembered in front of an audience that included children and fed to the zoo's lions, tigers and leopards.