By Emma Smith
Edinburgh Zoo is facing a public backlash after their culling of two healthy Red River hog piglets was revealed on Wednesday.
Sammi and Becca were born as part of a breeding programme in August of last year but the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) recommended the animals to be put down due to a surplus of the species.
The piglets were euthanised humanely at the beginning of this year and there are now fears for the three remaining piglets, Ellis, Moses and Nelson, although the zoo has said it intends to keep them as long as is viable.
The birth of these rare piglets was advertised by the zoo last summer, which has caused anger among many people, including animal rights organisation One Kind – formerly Advocates for Animals.
Policy Director, Libby Anderson, says: “It’s a really depressing story. This is an iconic case of why zoos are not as good as they say they are.
“The public paid money to go and see these cute and playful babies but what they didn’t realise was that they were destined to be put down.
“All pigs are very intelligent and have individual characteristics, thoughts and feelings. Doesn’t their life have a value?”
The population of the Red River hog is in decline in its native Africa due to hunting. One Kind believe educating the huntsmen is the way forward, not taking part in captive breeding programmes, which ultimately result in culling surplus animals.
The hogs, also known as bush pigs, can live for up to 20 years and in their natural habitat live near swamps and marshes.
Edinburgh Zoo issued a statement saying: “If a species does not have breeding recommendation for the EEP, the EEP will advise the culling rather than re-homing of a species.
“As a member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, it is imperative that the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland complies with the recommendations given.”
They also added that the reason the hogs were not prevented from breeding was to “ensure the animals in our collection lead as natural a life as possible.”
Culling of unwanted young is a common practice among zoos, although frequency and exact details are not always known. In May 2006 the Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig came under fire when a pack of Mackenzie River wolves were culled because they were not displaying their natural behaviour.