After the public outcry over the death of Marius the giraffe in Copenhagen Zoo, you’d think the Danes would shy away from any other killings. Not a bit of it. I’ve been on the phone to the curator and zoologist at another Danish zoo, this time in Jutland.
Jyllands Park Zoo has two male giraffes, one of whom is unfortunately called Marius – unfortunate because he too is now under threat. If the zoo gets a female, and decides to start breeding giraffes, Marius has to go. The zoo says it will try to re-home him but if that doesn’t work then he too will be killed, just like his namesake.
The curator, Jesper Moehring-Jensen told me they euthanized a giraffe just last year because it had a leg injury (arthritis I think).
“We don’t have a problem euthanizing animals if there’s no other solution,” he told me.
And if you’re wondering whether he would allow children to watch Marius II being dissected and fed to the lions, then yes he would. It’s all about ‘education’ he explains.
To me it’s a perfect illustration of just how different, culturally, Denmark is to the UK. I still maintain that the damage done to Denmark’s PR after last Sunday is huge. But as Jyllands Park Zoo shows, the Danes don’t care what anyone else thinks.
So if your name’s Marius and you’re a giraffe in Denmark then my advice is get out as quickly as you can…
This morning’s decision by Copenhagen Zoo to put down a giraffe has caused an international outcry. Marius was a healthy two year old. But because of rules on in-breeding, it was decided he had to die.
Zoos from across Europe offered to step in and save him – but they were all turned down. At 0930 local time, Marius was shot by bolt gun. He was then dissected in front of a crowd (yes, even children were watching) and his carcass was fed to lions and tigers.
Now I understand animal populations have to be managed and the healthy stock protected. I don’t live far from a large deer park here in Denmark and I’m sure many there are culled. But killing a healthy giraffe that’s been kept in captivity just seems plain wrong.
What’s amazed me more, though, is how the zoo has handled this whole affair. The scientific director is quoted as saying the campaign to save Marius had gone “much too far”. He says they kill between twenty and thirty animals there a year and warns people not to let emotions get in the way of science.
It’s difficult not to. I’ve had emails and tweets from friends in the UK asking me what kind of ‘barbaric’ country I live in.
You certainly can’t accuse the zoo of being anything less than transparent. But was this really the only option? It hasn’t exactly done much for international public relations. In fact, I would say this has been a PR disaster.
I am very concerned to hear that the only English-language newspaper in Denmark, The Copenhagen Post, may not survive. A week before Christmas all staff had their contracts terminated.
I’m told that the owner, Ejvind Sandal, informed employees that if they could think of a way to fix the problems, then he might consider re-employing them in three months time. So far the CEO, the Editor-in-Chief and the News Editor are among those who’ve quit. They’re not saying much, but Justin Cremer, the News Editor, did tweet this a few days ago:
“Sat on this too long: All @cphpost staff were fired before Xmas. Has affected Quality, can’t ignore it any longer
His second tweet reads: “Not being one for slow, painful deaths, I have counter-resigned from @cphpost.
So what does it mean for the 400,000+ expats in Denmark who don’t speak or write Danish? I, among others, rely on the Post to give me an idea of what’s going on here. I’m not going to mince my words – if the Copenhagen Post closes and there’s nothing to replace it, then I think it will be a disaster. Denmark is small and has to communicate with the outside world – including the non-Danes living inside its own borders.
As I know only too well, newspapers and regional TV news have struggled to survive in the UK. Now I don’t know what the fundamental problems are at the Copenhagen Post. But I hope the Danish government/Foreign Ministry realise just how important an English-language service is to Denmark.
Discussing Twitter with Danish journalists
I was invited by the British Embassy in Denmark to take part in a social media conference today called “Digital Media for Diplomatic Excellence”. Along with three of Denmark’s most prestigious journalists (Michael Lund from DR, Margit Shabanzadeh from TV2 and Mads Brandstrup from Børsen) we discussed the rise of Twitter.
While it’s big in the UK, in Denmark it’s relatively small. Facebook is the preferred social network here, with more than three million Danish users. But that’s changing. Danish politicians are tweeting and so too are journalists.
Tom Fletcher, the British Ambassador to Lebanon
British diplomats are also embracing Twitter and social media. At today’s event we heard from the British Ambassadors for Lebanon and Romania (Tom Fletcher and Martin Harris). They weren’t with us in person, but via ‘google hangout’ (which is a bit like Skype) we could see them, listen to them and even ask them questions. Both of them tweet and blog regularly and do so very effectively.
Martin Harris, the British Ambassador to Romania
The British Foreign Office realises it has to engage with people and social media helps. Martin Harris described Twitter as ‘people power’ and Tom Fletcher noted that if you’re not on it you won’t last. Fletcher admitted that since the Edward Snowden revelations, people expect a higher level of transparency and more honesty on social media.
These men, along with others like the British Ambassador to Denmark, Vivien Life, are trying to be ‘Digital Diplomats’. That can only be a good thing.
You can always follow me on twitter!