Several zoos had made last-ditch efforts to take him in and thousands of people had signed an online petition appealing for a change of heart over the 18-month-old called Marius.

But he was killed by bolt gun on Sunday and then dissected in front of gathered visitors, including children, with the meat then fed to the zoo’s lions

Although the giraffe was healthy, he was considered useless for breeding because his genes were too common.

“Copenhagen Zoo’s giraffes are part of an international breeding programme which aims at ensuring a healthy giraffe population in European zoos. This is done by constantly ensure that only unrelated giraffes breed so that inbreeding is avoided,” said the Zoo’s Scientific Director Bengt Holst. “If an animal’s genes are well represented in a population further breeding with that particular animal is unwanted. As this giraffe’s genes are well represented in the breeding programme and as there is no place for the giraffe in the Zoo’s giraffe herd the European Breeding Programme for Giraffes has agreed that Copenhagen Zoo euthanize the giraffe.”

The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) said it supported Copenhagen Zoo’s decision.

“Our aim is to safeguard for future generations a genetically diverse, healthy population of animals against their extinction,” it said in a statement. 

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