THE owner of South Lakes Wild Animal Park has defended Copenhagen Zoo’s decision to kill a giraffe and feed its carcass to lions.

The Danish zoo hit international headlines after it announced it had shot Marius because he was considered useless for breeding as his genes were too common.

The zoo said the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) had recommended the healthy 18-month old-giraffe be put down.

Some 20,000 people signed an online petition to save Marius and campaigners protested outside the zoo.

But the owner of the Dalton-based zoo, David Gill backed the call in a post on the zoo’s Facebook page.

“We are members of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, (EAZA),” he wrote.

“We have been for nearly 20 years. This is a group of European zoos that have to be at the very highest standard of welfare and ethics and the accreditation is very seriously applied.

“Copenhagen Zoo is also one of those members and has a very strict welfare and ethics record and is a very highly regarded zoo in every aspect.

“It is very difficult for many people to understand fully the reasoning behind the euthanasia of any animal.

“We fully understand that, but it is recognised by responsible zoos as a last resort option to manage populations and inbreeding within the captive populations of wild animals just as the RSPCA would rather euthanase a healthy dog or cat than have it placed in a bad home as a last resort.”

He continued: “Copenhagen Zoo did not do this for entertainment nor did they do this without exploring every other option available to them for the giraffe.

“This animal was made available to all members of the European Breeding Programme (EEP ) for giraffes for over a year and no other approved zoo offered to take him.”