COPENHAGEN - A Danish zoo sparked outrage Sunday when it put down a young giraffe then chopped it up and fed it to lions as visitors, including young children, looked on.
The fate of 18-month-old Marius shocked animal lovers around the world, with thousands signing an online petition to save him and a billionaire offering to buy him and keep him in her Beverly Hills garden.
Copenhagen Zoo said the action was necessary to prevent inbreeding and Marius was put down with a bolt gun after being anaesthetised.
A crowd of visitors, including small children, looked on as an autopsy was carried out and the animal skinned and chopped up.
Some grimaced while others took photos. A full-maned lion later tucked into the giraffe's remains in full view of the public.
"It was put down at 9.20am. It went as planned. It's always the people's right to protest. But of course we have been surprised," zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro told AFP.
He said some zoo staff had received death threats including scientific director Bengt Holst who "received a call in the middle of the night".
The zoo said it had no choice other than to prevent the animal attaining adulthood in a long explanation of its decision published on its website.
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