What do zoos do with large animals that die
December 15, 2009 8:45 AM   Subscribe

What do zoos do with large animals that die? I heard about a giraffe at the Santa Barbara zoo that died and it got me to wondering about what they'd do with the body. I'm guessing they wouldn't just feed it to predator animals (even though that seems kind of efficient and circle of lifeish) so do they bury them, burn them, stuff them?
posted by willnot to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This question has [sort of] been asked before.
posted by jessamyn at 8:47 AM on December 15, 2009

Response by poster: Sorry about that. I checked tags on zoo, but I guess I didn't check zoos even though I thought to add the variation when I posted.
posted by willnot at 8:49 AM on December 15, 2009

They add a "seasonal special" to the cafeteria menu?

Failing that, this seems to indicate that the National Zoo uses the remains for research and education. Makes sense to me, as most zoos I've been to are associated with educational and research groups. No reason for that to stop when the animals die.
posted by tilde at 8:59 AM on December 15, 2009

Tales From the Zoo

Well, long story short, Marie died. There she lay, inside her cage. We all just stood there trying to grasp the situation. Then someone asked, "How in the hell are we going to get her out of there?" The next thing I know, a Zoo Delivery Truck pulls up. On it were 25 pairs of hip-boots, 10 50-gallon drums, a case of rubber gloves and surgical masks and 10 brand new chain saws.

posted by showbiz_liz at 9:30 AM on December 15, 2009 [4 favorites]

The Toronto Zoo just lost an elephant, and they're going to bury it on the grounds.
posted by Schlimmbesserung at 10:05 AM on December 15, 2009

I have a family member who works in a North American Wildlife park (bears, elk, etc.). When the animals die, they usually cremate them. Sometimes they will send them to a taxidermist. They don't feed them to other animals due to concerns about disease.
posted by SamanthaK at 10:37 AM on December 15, 2009

When one of the elephants at Auckland Zoo died earlier this year they buried her. Which was filmed and shown on the national news, which personally I found pretty distasteful (really don't need to see my favourite elephant's dead body while I eat dinner thanks) but still. The actual funeral part was very moving, the zoo staff become very close to their charges and it was clearly a hard time for all of them.
posted by shelleycat at 11:07 AM on December 15, 2009

You might find the beginning of this story of interest to you. It's terribly depressing, though! Hint: Elephant + landfill.
posted by adiabat at 12:12 PM on December 15, 2009

One rainy December night my boyfriend and I were driving home from a friend's house in the City. We drove down Cesar Chavez to catch 80 back to Oakland, and as I accelerated up the ramp onto the freeway a large rig pulling a gravel trailer zoomed into my field of view and continued up the freeway. As I moved over to the number 3 lane, a funky smell filled the car, then wafted away. I said "ugh, we must have just passed a dead animal on the side of the road." Then the smell came back, even stronger. My boyfriend said "I think it's in your car!" I argued that if it was in my car, we would have smelled it before. He insisted that something small had died in the dashboard and now the heater was on we could smell it. We kept this up for the next several miles to the Bay Bridge, until up ahead I spotted the same rig that had passed me earlier. "I think it's something in that truck, it sure as f*ck is not IN MY CAR."
As the yellow lights of the bridge rhythmically flickered across the roadway, we drew closer to te truck. The smell was overwhelming now- we had been smelling it miles behind the truck as it drove, and this close to the thing we were practically choking. I stepped on the accelerator to pass, and as we zoomed by we saw a bloated, pale white belly and three enormous bovid legs stiffly projecting into the air from the trailer. "A DEAD COW!!" we uttered in unison. "A HUGE DEAD COW!"

Nearly a year later, I was sitting at home after driving home from San Francisco the night before. I have to say, even at that time being on the bridge at night with the flickering yellow lights instantly filled my nose with the phantom stench of putrification. I considered the nightmare scene from the year before: that cow was gigantic. I've seen cows up close, and this one's oversized hooves and cartoonishly articulated hocks just didn't ring quite true. The way the carcass had been situated in the back of the trailer with it's belly visible was strange, too. It seemed that it was piled up on other stuff, and the thought at the time that the trailer was full of dead animals had contributed to the Lynchian horror of the evening. One thought had plagued me all along: why would anyone who had a dead cow drive it through San Francisco? There are cows on the Peninsula; surly if one died it would be sent to the render plant in a van (growing up on a ranch, I'd seen the tallow man's truck). So why the hell a Mack truck and an open trailer across the Bay Bridge? What if it was ... a giraffe? Suddenly everything made sense: the strange positioning in the trailer, the crazy oversized hooves, the nighttime trip through the City. Enlightened, I searched the San Francisco Chronicle for "giraffe died", and found that the year before, a 25 year old giraffe named Patricia had died at the San Francisco Zoo.

I don't have a good answer to your question, where were they taking her: possibly to UC Davis, and then from there to a rendering plant in the Valley, to be made into tallow and then ultimately dog food, biofuels, or cosmetics. Or cremation. She certainly was not buried in San Francisco.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:38 PM on December 15, 2009 [10 favorites]

Here's a story from a student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin: UW researchers exhume rhino.

From the link:

"The rhino died a natural death in Milwaukee County Zoo almost two decades ago. Buried at Picnic Point to allow for natural forces to decompose the body, the rhino’s skeleton was intended to be used for research and be included in the Zoological Museum’s skeletal collection in 1995."

A giraffe and an elephant also got the same treatment.
posted by handful of rain at 1:58 PM on December 15, 2009

In Thailand, they eat the elephant.
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 9:27 PM on December 15, 2009

I volunteer at a large zoo. I can't really say about really large animals, but a lot of bones and pelts are used for education - I know of one fully-assembled bear skeleton in the zoo, as well. I know that the raptor center had a large freezer of dead raptors that they offered my program so that we can experiment with taxidermy.
posted by R a c h e l at 10:02 PM on December 15, 2009

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