Danish zoo creates social media storm with plan to dissect lion

A past dissection at Odense Zoo. Its plan to dissect a young lion that was put down earlier this year has triggered an online storm.
A past dissection at Odense Zoo. Its plan to dissect a young lion that was put down earlier this year has triggered an online storm.PHOTO: ODENSE ZOO

COPENHAGEN (REUTERS) - A Danish zoo has triggered an online storm with plans to dissect a young lion that was put down earlier this year.

The lion will be dissected publicly on Thursday (Oct 15), said Ms Nina Collatz Christensen, the chief of events at Odense Zoo. The lion was actually put down in February, something that was not made public.

"We all saw what happened with the giraffe, and that is why we decided not to announce anything before it was already dead. We had never in our wildest imagination expected so many people to react on this," Ms Christensen told Reuters.

"The giraffe" was Marius, an 18-month-old male killed by Copenhagen Zoo and publicly dissected in February 2014. A media storm ensued, with the zoo's director getting death threats.

It is a very Nordic thing to dissect the animals in public, and many of my foreign colleagues are jealous when I tell them about the work we can do in our zoo.

- Nina Collatz Christensen, the chief of events at Odense Zoo

The giraffe was put down because its genes were already well-represented among the giraffes in Europe's zoos. In that case, it is a matter of policy to eliminate an animal bearing those genes, to prevent inbreeding. The lion was put down for the same reason.

When the dissection was announced, though, the Odense Zoo's Facebook page got more than 200,000 hits regarding the plan. A lot of them condemned the zoo and its staff. Some of them suggested dissecting the staff instead of the lion.

"I would actually not mind being dissected myself, but not yet, though," Ms Christensen said. "I don't see it as an actual threat, but more as an outburst, but we have notified local police about the event just in case".

She noted that most of the comments from Danes have supported the zoo. It's mostly foreigners who have been outraged.

"It is a very Nordic thing to dissect the animals in public, and many of my foreign colleagues are jealous when I tell them about the work we can do in our zoo," Ms Christensen said.

The area where the dissection will take place will be shielded, so people passing by won't have to watch, Ms Christensen said. She does understand some of the repugnance the execution and planned dissection has caused.

"The cuteness factor of course comes into play," she said."If this was a goat, people would not have reacted like this."