A Norwegian zoo has been criticized for feeding one of its zebras to its tigers.
The beheaded corpse of the zebra was placed in the tiger enclosure at the Kristiansand Zoo and Amusement Park last week and could be seen by the public.
A visitor photographed the corpse and posted it to Facebook, sparking anger among social media users.
Zoo officials told the Norwegian state broadcaster NRK that the decision was made because it had a surplus of zebras.
A zoo spokesman defended the decision, saying predators ate other animals. “It is quite normal for a tiger or a lion to eat their prey.”
The animal was killed and fed whole, minus its head, so the tigers would use their claws and teeth, simulating natural behavior.
“We explained this and the guests realised that this is the way nature is,” the spokesman said.
The animals advocacy group PETA in Britain was unimpressed.
“The scene has caused shocked people to post on social media, with many concerned about how seeing a headless zebra torn to pieces would affect children,” the organisation said in its blog.
“It’s common for zoos to kill healthy animals when they have too many. Between 3000 and 5000 healthy ‘surplus’ animals are killed each year by European zoos alone,” PETA said.
“Breeding programmes serve no true conservation purpose because zebras and other animals born in zoos are rarely, if ever, returned to their natural habitats. They are often treated as mere baby-makers and visitor attractions in zoos’ ‘swap-and-shop’ programmes, which give the public a false sense that something meaningful has happened.”
PETA claimed the argument that zoos were educational didn’t cut it, either.
“Seeing bored, depressed and often insane animals pacing, swaying or circling constantly teaches children nothing about normal animal behavior – we certainly wouldn’t take our children to a prison in order to teach them about human behavior.
“They can learn far more valuable and inspiring lessons by watching nature documentaries that show wild animals where they belong, going on virtual field trips or watching IMAX movies that feature animals filmed in the wild.”
PETA urged people to avoid patronising zoos and instead donate to campaigns that actually protected animals in their native habitats.
It is reported that Kristiansand Zoo’s tigers are usually fed with horse carcasses. They eat about 80 a year.