Marius the giraffe
Marius the giraffe is pictured in Copenhagen Zoo February 7, 2014. Photo by Reuters
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Joyce Carol Oates' tweet. Photo by Twitter

A global uproar over the killing of a healthy giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo reached new heights on Tuesday, when author Joyce Carol Oates compared the motives for the animal's killing to those of the Third Reich.

"Still can't comprehend why the Danish zoo killed the beautiful young healthy giraffe," tweeted the award-winning author. "Yes, they had 'reasons' - so did Nazi doctors."

Saying it needed to prevent inbreeding, the zoo killed 2-year-old Marius on Sunday and fed its remains to lions as visitors watched, ignoring a petition signed by thousands and offers from other zoos and a private individual to save the animal.

Since Marius' quite public execution, the Copenhagen Zoo scientific director and other staff have received death threats. "I got direct threats against the zoo, me and my family," director Bengt Holst told Reuters. One caller who telephoned in the middle of the night told him that he and his family deserved to die.

Copenhagen Zoo's giraffes are part of an international breeding program that aims to maintain a healthy giraffe population in European zoos by ensuring that only unrelated giraffes breed.

"If an animal's genes are well represented in a population, further breeding with that particular animal is unwanted," Holst said. "We could face the same problem with an elephant if there are too many males."

Marius was killed despite an online petition signed by roughly 27,000 people.  He was given his favorite breakfast of rye bread and then shot.

After an autopsy, some meat from Marius's carcass was fed to other zoo animals and some was sent to research projects in Denmark and abroad for study.

Camilla Bergvall, vice chairwoman of Animal Rights Sweden, said it was common for zoos to kill healthy animals because they were not suitable for breeding, the zoo lacked room for them or there was little public interest in them.