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Saturday 20 September 2014

Dublin zoo forced to put down 28 animals in three years

Published 23/02/2014 | 02:30

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ZOO FAVOURITE: The death of Sheila the lioness was featured on RTE’s ‘The Zoo’ programme. She was almost 25 and had muscular weakness, making her unable to walk. Photo: Ray Cullen
ZOO FAVOURITE: The death of Sheila the lioness was featured on RTE’s ‘The Zoo’ programme. She was almost 25 and had muscular weakness, making her unable to walk. Photo: Ray Cullen

AN endangered chimpanzee, a snow leopard, two Chilean flamingos and two Labrador dogs are among 28 animals Dublin Zoo has been forced to euthanise in the last three years.

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Figures released for the first time by the zoo reveal an average of almost 10 animals are put to sleep each year.

Confirmation of the figures comes in the wake of international outrage over the decision by Copenhagen Zoo to euthanise a healthy 18-month-old giraffe called Marius because his genetic make-up ruled him out as a potential breeder.

The animal was dissected in front of a watching crowd before his remains were fed to the zoo's lions, tigers and leopards.

Dublin Zoo director Leo Oosterweghel condemned the the event, calling it "cold, calculated, cynical and callous". Mr Oosterweghel said there were viable alternatives because zoos in the UK, Europe and the Middle East offered to house the giraffe.

Dublin Zoo has insisted all of the animals that have been euthanised at the zoo were put to sleep because they were seriously ill, or to prevent "further suffering".

The zoo said that, unlike in Copenhagen, the procedure was never used because an animal was surplus, or genetically over represented.

It said that "euthanasia was always carried out as a last resort".

A 51-year-old west African chimpanzee was among the animals to have been euthanised between 2011 and 2013. The rare female mammal had been suffering from septicaemia (blood poisoning) and thrombosis (blood clotting).

A 25-year-old African lion named Sheila was suffering from renal failure and muscular weakness, making her unable to walk before she was put down.

The case was documented on RTE series The Zoo in 2011.

The only reptile to be euthanised in the period was a water monitor, which had suffered from severe spinal degeneration.

The harshness of nature is brought into sharp focus by some of the cases.

A grey wolf was put to sleep after it was attacked by other members of the pack and had sustained severe injuries.

A Siamang gibbon, which was rejected by its mother and found in a comatose state, was also euthanised. The animal is native to Malaysia and Thailand.

A spokesperson told the Sunday Independent: "Dublin Zoo takes the responsibility for our animals' welfare very seriously. Dublin Zoo aims to maximise the physical and psychological well-being of the animals in our care."

She added: "Bearing this in mind, euthanasia is considered primarily where, in the opinion of the veterinary and animal care team, an animal is suffering from a disease or severe pain which cannot be alleviated".

A number of birds – including a common ostrich, greater rhea, two Chilean flamingos and three domestic fowls were euthanised by the zoo.

Two Labrador dogs were also put to sleep. Both were around 15 years old. One had severe anaemia and renal failure, while the other dog had severe age-related arthritis.

Sunday Independent

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