Science News

Marius the Giraffe

Thu, 13th Feb 2014

Ginny Smith, Harriet Johnson

Part of the shows Marius the Giraffe and Brainy Babies!

Last week a young, physically healthy giraffe called Marius in a zoo in Copenhagen was" alt="Giraffe" /> put down, amidst an uproar from animal lovers. The zoo argued that it had to be done to prevent inbreeding, and produce a healthier population of giraffes. Here's your Quick Fire Science on the subject....

- Last week a young, physically healthy giraffe called Marius in a zoo in Copenhagen was put down, amidst an uproar from animal lovers. The zoo argued that it had to be done to prevent inbreeding, and produce a healthier population of girraffes.

- Inbreeding is when genetically closely related animals mate and bare offspring together.

- This raises the chance of harmful traits being passed down the generations, so reduces the fitness of a population.

- The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) runs a breeding programme for giraffes, which has been very successful. They supported the decision to put Marius down.

- Giraffes live in groups with one male and a number of females- young males have to be removed when they reach sexual maturity to prevent fighting

- The giraffe in questions was genetically similar to others in the breeding programme, so it was decided that for the health of the population it was best for him not to breed.

- Castration and contraception were decided not to be feasible alternatives as both require sedation, which is dangerous for giraffes.

- Yorkshire Wildlife Park in the UK, offered to take Marius, but because Marius' older brother lives there Copenhagen Zoo decided the space would be better off given to a genetically different giraffe.

- There has been public outcry and controversy over Marius' fate - this case raises a lot of questions over the right humans have to control an animal’s life, are zoos ethical and how should species conservation programmes be managed.

- Inbreeding can happen in the wild if a population becomes isolated, for example on an island. These populations are then very susceptible to disease

- In humans due to the desirability of royals marrying other royals, some dynasties became very inbred, and suffered health problems.

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