German zoo staff convicted of cruelty for killing hybrid tigers

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2010:
MAGDEBURG, Germany–Magdeburg Zoo
director Kai Parret and three members of the zoo
staff were on June 17, 2010 convicted of cruelty
for killing three tiger cubs at birth in May 2008
because their father was found to be a hybrid of
the Siberian and Sumatran tiger subspecies. A
fine of 8,100 euros was suspended on condition
that the offense not be repeated.
The charges were brought at request of
the German pro-animal organizations Animal Public
and People for Animal Rights/ Germany.
The Magdeburg Zoo bought the tigers’
parents with the intention of breeding them,
believing them both to be purebred Siberian, but
found Sumatran genes in the father in February
2008, after the mother was already in advanced
pregnancy.


Rising in defense of Parret and staff,
the World Zoo Association issued a statement that
it “regards the humane euthanasia of the tiger
cubs as being an entirely reasonable and
scientifically supportable action.”
Agreed the European Association of Zoos &
Aquaria, “EAZA and the Tiger EEP (inter-zoo
breeding program) are unable to understand how,
when it is judged acceptable to cull wild animals
on grounds of hybridisation or overpopulation and
farm animals on grounds of economic viability,
it can be judged unacceptable to do the same with
zoo animals in order to further the conservation
of endangered species.”
Added International Union for the
Conservation of Nature species survival committee
chair Simon N. Stuart, “I believe that the
conviction of the three Magdeburg Zoo staff, on
the grounds that humane management euthanasia is
not a reasonable course of action for
conservation purposes, to be a retrograde step.”
But the conviction was based not on
conservation considerations but consideration of
the rights of individual animals under German
law–and the positions of many animal rights
advocates and zoo management were paradoxically
reversed from just three years earlier. Recalled
The Local, a Berlin newspaper published in
English, “Polar bear cub Knut,” born at the
Berlin Zoo in 2007, “became a star when an
animal rights activist called for him to be
euthanized after his mother rejected him. Knut
was instead raised by hand, as was polar bear
cub Snowflake at the Nuremberg Zoo in 2008
despite picketing from animal rights protesters.”
German zoos have in recent years
repeatedly invoked purported conservation needs
in defense of controversial practices. The
German Green Party politican Claudia Hämmerling,
for example, in March 2008 filed a criminal
complaint against Berlin Zoo director Bernhard
Blaszkiewitz for allegedly improperly selling
surplus animals, including a pygmy hippopotamus,
jaguars, tigers, and a family of bears.
Blaskiewitz denied the allegations but
admitted to having killed four feral kittens with
his bare hands in 1991.
The Thueringer Zoo, in Erfurt, in 2007
fired director Norbert Neuschulz for allegedly
allowing staff to sell surplus animals to be
slaughtered for human consumption.
Associated Press correspondent Les
Neuhaus alleged in 2006 that the Lion Zoo in
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, had poisoned lion cubs
two years earlier for sale to taxidermists.
Taken up by London Sunday Times reporter Daniel
Foggo, the investigation spread to zoos in
Germany, France, and Belgium, which had
purportedly supplied taxidermist Jean-Pierre
Gerard with carcasses since 1994.
The Magdeburg Zoo case drew notice to the
practice of zoos routinely breeding and killing
animals to keep young specimens on exhibit,
though Parret and staff denied doing this, and
provoked discussion about what zoos should do
with accidental hybrids and other animals who are
deemed to be of no conservation value.
The American Zoo Association has
recommended for nearly 20 years against allowing
Bornean and Sumatran orangutans to crossbreed,
but has not recommended that those who already
inhabited zoos should be killed, and opposes the
sale of exotic species outside AZA member
institutions.
The AZA phased in stricter policies
governing the disposition of surplus animals than
those in effect at zoos in most of the rest of
the world in 1986 and 1991, pushed by former
Detroit Zoo director Steve Graham.
Graham came to the Detroit Zoo in 1982
after serving as president of the Antietam Humane
Society in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. His
predecessor at the Detroit Zoo quit after being
accused of taking kickbacks from animal dealers.
Graham both contributed to exposing the then
common practice of selling zoo animals to be shot
at so-called “canned hunts,” and killed many
animals by pentobarbital injection whom the AZA
Species Survival Plans deemed genetically
redundant.
Graham resigned in 1991. His successor,
Ron Kagan, encourages zoos to place animals who
are unsuitable for exhibiton or breeding at
reputable animal sanctuaries.
–Merritt Clifton, with research by Shubhobroto Ghosh

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