Swedish zoo admits killing ‘surplus’ healthy lion cubs

Boras Djurpark defends ‘last resort’ decision to cull nine young lions since 2012

Lion plays with snow ball in Belgrade
(Image credit: Alexa Stankovic)

A Swedish zoo has defended its practice of euthanising healthy lion cubs deemed “surplus”.

Only two of the 13 lion cubs born since 2012 at Boras Djurpark, a wildlife park near Gothenburg which houses around 500 animals, have survived to adulthood. Two died of natural causes, while the other nine were put down despite having no health problems.

Documents seen by Swedish broadcaster STV show that a litter of four lions born in March 2012, called Simba, Nala, Sarabi and Rafiki, were euthanised as “surplus” in autumn 2013.

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In 2015, a similar fate befell three cubs christened Kiara, Banzai and Kovu, born the previous year.

The latest litter, four cubs who were born in late 2016, have fared slightly better, the Gothenburg Post reports. On Tuesday, Potter and Weasley were put down, but their siblings Dolores and Granger have found homes at a zoo in England.

The zoo’s chief executive, Bo Kjellson, told STV that the zoo’s strategy was “no secret” and that selective euthanisation was sometimes necessary to avoid unbalancing the zoo’s carefully calibrated care and breeding programme.

The Boras Djurpark aims to give its animal occupants an environment that closely resembles their natural habitat, and Kjellson said that an excess number of lions can disrupt the pack dynamic.

“When the aggression in the group became too much we had to remove some animals,” he said. “We had tried to sell or relocate them to other zoos for a long time but unfortunately there were no zoos that could receive them.”

Kjellson refused to rule out any future killings of healthy lion cubs. “Currently, the group works well, but some of them may become surplus animals,” he said. "We wish we could place the animals in other zoos, but we are fully aware that killing can be the last resort.”

The zoo’s approach may come as a shock to animal lovers, but the practice of culling surplus animals is common

In 2014, Dr Lesley Dickie of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, told the BBC that between 3,000 and 5,000 animals are "management-euthanised" in European zoos in any given year, although large mammals make up a small fraction of this total.

The EAZA’s guidelines to zoos and conservation programmes permit euthanisia in instances “where the continued presence of an individual animal is disruptive to the natural dynamic of a group”.

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