What happens to surplus zoo animals?

Published On: Feb 16 2014 01:09:00 PM HST
HONOLULU -

Video of a giraffe killed and fed to the lions at a European zoo has sparked discussion over what happens to unwanted, surplus zoo animals.
Cute cubs may have gotten the "lion's share" of attention at the Honolulu Zoo, but other animals also attract a crowd and even have fans of their own.

"My favorite animal is a rhino," said 5 year-old Triton Medeiros of Ewa Beach.

"My favorite animal is a zebra, because I like its stripes and colors," said his older sister Chariel.
While Charene Medeiros stated, "My favorite animal is a giraffe because of its long neck."

While Charene can't get enough of the giraffes at the Honolulu Zoo, a zoo in Denmark had enough of a healthy male giraffe.

The Copenhagen Zoo killed the surplus animal, then fed it to the lions. The zoo director said the facility needed the space for breeding other genetically different giraffes.
"You're saddened when you see something like that," said Dr. Baird Fleming, with the Honolulu Zoo.

What happens to surplus animals at the Honolulu Zoo? Dr. Fleming said they have a lot of options when it comes to finding homes for the extra mammals, birds or reptiles.

"We are part of a large group of 200 zoos and aquariums that have population management plans," said Fleming.

If other zoos don't need the surplus animals, the Honolulu Zoo is required to keep and care for them for as long as they live.

"If we have an animal in our case, we ensure we have the best animal care we can give it," said Fleming.

Each species has a specific plan for how often it can breed.

"We plan out years in advance because we don't want to get into a situation where we have an animaland we don't have any place to send it," added Fleming.

Many of the birds may be on birth control or sloths spayed to keep their numbers from running wild at the zoo.

Along with giving some animals contraceptives, caretakers can also limit populations by putting only male species together in an exhibit.

Those limits can hurt the expansion of endangered or rare speciesand some may argue, "Don't animals eat one another in the wild?"

"The biggest difference between us and the wild is our animals are in enclosures. They can't escape. They can't get away. Once we put them in an enclosure, we feel we have an obligation to provide the best care they can get," stated Fleming.


Fleming said zoos do not buy or sell animals. Even those sent to other facilities for breeding are simply "on loan."

The Honolulu Zoo just loaned out one of its young lions to a zoo in Texas, and will be getting on loan - African antelopes known as a bongos.

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