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Copenhagen Zoo Euthanizes 2 Adult Lions, 2 Cubs Weeks After Feeding Baby Giraffe To Pride

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COPENHAGEN ZOO LIONS
A lioness carries one of her two lion cubs, a male and a female, as they are presented to the public for the first time in Copenhagen Zoo on Wednesday, July 17, 2013. | AP

Several weeks after a Danish zoo euthanized an 18-month-old giraffe named Marius and fed it to lions in front of visitors, the same wildlife park has killed four more of its animals.

According to the Agence France-Presse, the Copenhagen Zoo euthanized four lions, including two cubs, on Monday in order to make room for a new male in the habitat.

"Because of the pride of lions' natural structure and behavior, the zoo has had to euthanize the two old lions and two young lions who were not old enough to fend for themselves," the zoo said in a statement provided to the agency.

Zookeepers reportedly tried to send the 10-month-old cubs to another institution, but were unable to find them a new home. Since the new male lion would likely kill the cubs, the zoo thought it was in the best interest of the pride to put the younglings down.

The new lion will be introduced to two females born in 2012, who have now reached breeding age.

As seen in Marius' case, it's not the first time the Copenhagen Zoo has taken lethal action to ensure a healthy population. The practice, which is commonplace among European zoos, was not widely known until photos of the young giraffe's dissection in front of a crowd spurred international attention.

Following Marius' death on Feb. 9, animal lovers and activists reacted strongly to the zoo's decision to euthanize him, an action that apparently was done to prevent inbreeding. Though the zoo defended its action, explaining that euthanasia is "sometimes necessary" under the European Breeding Program, Copenhagen Zoo officials still received a flurry of backlash, including death threats.

A week later, reports surfaced that another Danish zoo intended to put down a young giraffe, who also happened to be named Marius. But after a public outcry, the Jyllands Park Zoo said it had no such plans to euthanize the second Marius.

Update, March 26: In a statement, the Copenhagen Zoo defended its decision:

Furthermore we couldn't risk that the male lion mated with the old female as she was too old to be mated with again due to the fact that she would have difficulties with birth and parental care of another litter.

The zoo added that the culling "may seem harsh, but in nature is necessary to ensure a strong pride of lions with the greatest chance of survival."

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