Petting Zoo Horror Story: Berlin Zoo Feeds Goat to Wolves

It's been a hard year for Berlin Zoo Director Bernhard Blaszkiewitz. First, he was accused of selling and mistreating animals. Then, he admitted he had killed cats with his bare hands. Now he let wolves rip a goat to shreds in front of zoo visitors.

Canadian wolves, such as the one pictured here in the wild, are being fed in Berlin's Zoo with goats from the petting zoo.
AP

Canadian wolves, such as the one pictured here in the wild, are being fed in Berlin's Zoo with goats from the petting zoo.

At the Berlin Zoo, it's a short distance between the petting zoo and the wolves' habitat. But it can apparently also be the distance between being lovingly caressed by children and being dismembered by bloodthirsty predators.

Crowds at the zoo were shocked Thursday as they watched wolves savagely jostle each other to get their piece of a recently killed goat.

The feeding of zoo animals to other creatures in the parks is an accepted practice in the European Union. And like those animals, this goat had already been killed before being placed in the wolves' habitat.

In simple terms, it's an issue of animal overflow in a man-made environment without any predators. As Ragnar Kühne, the zoo's curator, told the mass-circulation daily Bild: "When we have too many goats in the petting zoo, we usually give them to farms or private persons. But if we can't get rid of them, we have them appropriately slaughtered and fed to carnivores."

Although some people might find it troubling that the wolves were fed in broad daylight and right in front of zoo visitors, the real issue of controversy seems to be that it happened in the wake of a series of shocking and mistrust-fomenting revelations about this and other German zoos.

For one, it might strike some as strange that this goat -- which was in perfectly good health -- should be killed this way after Bernhard Blaszkiewitz, the zoo's director, told Die Welt a few months ago that the park didn't kill surplus hoofed animals and feed them to other animals. "We don't do this," he insisted. "But, of course, it might happen that a deer breaks its neck, and then we allow the corpse to be eaten."

A zoo spokesman later clarified the statement saying that Blaszkiewitz had been referring to "wild" hoofed animals, such as, antelopes, zebras and deer, rather than to "domestic" hoofed animals, such as sheep, goats, cows and pigs.

Then, in March, local Green Party politician Claudia Hämmerling filed a criminal complaint against Blaszkiewitz, accusing him of selling unwanted animals-- including a pygmy hippopotamus and a family of bears -- for slaughter and of letting tigers and jaguars be shipped to China, where they allegedly ended up being used for impotency cures. Blaszkiewitz has vehemently denied these charges, saying he was victim of a "smear campaign."

Soon after, Blaszkiewitz admitted to killing a number of wild kittens in 1991 by breaking their necks with his own hands, saying the animals could bear diseases threatening to the other animals. At the time, Blaszkiewitz defended his actions. "I still think it was the right thing to do," Blaszkiewitz told Die Welt in March. "Wild house cats can pose a big danger to people and animals, so they shouldn't be tolerated in (zoos)."

In addition, last month the animal-rights organization Peta filed another criminal complaint against Blaszkiewitz, alleging that he improperly treated 10 bears by not giving them sufficient living space in Tierpark Berlin, which he also oversees.

jtw/reuters

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