Saturday, June 21, 2014

For the animals' best

For the animals' best

Translated by Google from

Text: Bine Madsen
Photo: Pelle Rink

"Do you even like animals?"
The interviewer from the British television channel Channel 4 is obviously disgusted. For several minutes, he insistently tried to cast doubt on the wisdom of the Copenhagen Zoo has chosen not just to kill a young and healthy giraffe, but the autopsy the dead giraffe in public and then feed the garden's predator with its meat.
For several minutes, the scientific director, Bengt Holst, in turn, insisted on explaining the rationale for the decision. The giraffe did not fit into the zoos breeding programs that it comes stock with good long-term and that the insight, for example, autopsies are helping to provide the public with the understanding of nature, which is so important for nature conservation.
But the interviewer hears almost not listening. He's angry. Disgusted. And then asks whether Bengt Holst at all like animals.
"Yes, of course I well. This is why I will rescue them and make sure that we have a healthy population," said the calm reply.
The interview was subsequently posted on the Web, watched by hundreds of thousands and followed by several roses to Bengt Holst and his handling of the case. "Give a prize to the man!" Said one of the responses, and it happens so now that the Zoo's scientific director has won Politiken award "Copenhagen".
- And it matters, because I would of course like to have, that we have people with us in what we do. In the beginning we were the victims of a massive smear campaign that thankfully turned quickly. But the price here is a good way to tie a bow on the story.

From storm to the waves
Now, four months after the story of Marius created resonate far beyond the country's borders, there is peace again. The research house in the heart of Copenhagen Zoo, there is little to indicate that everything in a series of hectic days in February stood at the other end, and that the scientific director of the days spent all waking hours on hold and explain the essence.
- It was hard because the pressure was so massive. The major international media was standing in line for several days, and I was tired afterwards. But the message was not difficult. For it is one of the pillars of our work and our way of doing Zoo on. At the same time, I had the great strength that I had the whole zoo behind me. You could not have pointed to a single employee here in the garden, which considered the same. It meant a lot, says Bengt Holst, who may have along the way felt a little out of breath. Here afterwards he is still fond of the wind, the case of Marius created. For around the world is still small lapping of the waves that are creating positive change. It has Bengt Holst meanwhile visited several times during international travel and meetings.
Many foreign zoos namely, unlike at home, euthanized animals in secret or sent animals to places that you "normally would never send animals", as Bengt Holst says so.
- It has been a ticking bomb under the zoos, and that was perhaps why the most violent reactions came from abroad. But now I can see how many of them have been forced to take the discussion and it is not only healthy, but also necessary for the animals. So we did the right thing, and it was all worth it.

His courage to speak out
It was not only in the interview with Channel 4 that Bengt Holst appeared as a man with an unusually strong foothold. The scientific director is a man who rarely putter with his opinions, and there are still many in the zoo world, who can remember when he was 20 years ago, spoke at an international conference in the United States. Here, he criticized the widespread use of processed food for predators in captivity, although the view was regarded as controversial. But Bengt Holst held. For processed food gives the animals loose teeth, and you have to lie so close to the animals' behavior, they should be allowed to put teeth in cadavers instead.
It's all about knowledge, he stresses, and to insist on giving its best possible contribution to the discussions that ultimately will affect how we treat animals of the world.
- Of course you have to be responsive, but I get the only real because I've put myself into things, and as long as no one can convince me otherwise, I stand by that, I come up with is right. But it is probably in my upbringing. I grew up with that one should stand by his opinions.
Bengt Holst's father was German and came to Denmark after the war. Not an easy journey in the years when there were many strong opinions about those who fought "on the wrong side." But the father was standing by his background, despite the boxes on the ears that followed, and eventually became a respected man.
- He went through life in a good way, because the ruler of respect for those who stand by themselves and their positions, and this has probably in some degree influenced me. At least I'm not afraid to speak my mind, but I also have great respect for the people who dare say theirs.

The important nuances
It is only now, when you dare to take the discussion with due respect for the differences that things can move in the direction of better. Whether it is about the killing of a giraffe or the other of life's questions.
- The real action, you get only when you make sure you get the nuances of, and it gets you only respect for other opinions. It may well be that you do not agree, but then you know at least what is to take into account. From this you can then make an informed decision.
Bengt Holst cites as an example the work of the global conservation organization CBSG. He is chairman of the committee in charge of the zoos in Europe and CBSGs European office is a natural consequence located in the Copenhagen Zoo, where help other countries with plans for nature conservation. Previously, it was something to peaceful areas and throw people out, so the animals could move into. But it is achieved nothing, believe Bengt Holst, who looks bigger perspectives in learning the people in the affected areas to live with respect for nature. For example, by allowing the parties to be heard.
- It may well be that it is not as far-reaching as if you were forced to hold everything in turn, have greater viability, because everyone feels a sense of ownership. Even so, it still ultimately a greater impact.

An important mission
Bengt Holst has been employed at Copenhagen Zoo for 30 years. Actually, this is his first single and possibly last workplace. Because it is a work that continues to fuel the booming commitment that has been his hallmark since the start of the study biology "sometime in 1970".
Back then it was true that animal behavior that preoccupied him. Whether there was cockroaches, crows or kangaroos. And during his studies, he was convinced that he would be stuck in academia as a researcher. But when he towards the end of the study were invited to apply for a new position as research associate in the capital's zoo, he could well see the potential.
- There is a huge task to make sure that there are also nature back to our descendants, and in this zoo a major role. A prerequisite for nature conservation, as mentioned understanding of nature, but it can only be processed by enabling people to connect with nature. In our part of the world, we are no longer the same opportunity to be in touch with nature and allows the zoo to be the important link that also creates a sense of responsibility, says the man who only has the title of "Net Copenhagen "on loan, but in return they going to stick with the title as scientific director for several more years. Only the case of Marius, for example, shown that there is still some way to go before we reach a full understanding of how best to take care of nature.
- We are constantly up against a wall because, for example, is up against market mechanisms that are difficult to reconcile with these things. But it's no use for us to give up because of it. We can always improve it. Maybe not ideal, but we can at least get a piece of the road.


Blue book: Bengt Holst
Born May 14, 1952 and an MSc. Sc. in biology from the University of Copenhagen in 1983. His thesis was about the crows birds collective accommodation.
On the Monday after the end of the study, he took the job as a zoologist and scientific assistant at Copenhagen Zoo. Five years after he became head of the animal department and in 1994 he was vice president and scientific director of the Zoo. Bengt Holst has not only worked to strengthen the scientific work in the Copenhagen Zoo, but has also spent many years working in the garden to share experiences and knowledge with other countries. He is deeply involved in conservation work in particularly the 3rd world, and has participated in several field projects.
Bengt Holst is also an avid participant in animal ethics debates and has in recent years been chairman of the Animal Ethics Council.
He is married and has four children.

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