Norway's Polar Park Zoo is a special place. Nestled in the northern Troms county, the zoo is something of a haven for animals, who have plenty of space to roam and are enclosed in their natural habitats. According to the zoo's website, the park is committed to "exhibiting animals in their natural surroundings," and as a result, "the Polar Park is one of the animal parks in the world with the largest area per animal."
The nice thing about this is that it seems like a relatively humane way to keep animals in zoos. The not-so-nice thing is, apparently, it still leaves them vulnerable to the dangers of human predators, who might, say, accidentally kill the animals while on a hunting trip, not even realizing they're shooting into a zoo.
This, according to Norwegian site the Local, is exactly what happened last week. "We had five elks," zoo head Heinz Strathmann told the Local. "Now we have only three." According to the zoo's site, "moose used to have a much wider range but hunting and other human activities greatly reduced it over the years."
The hunters said their hunting dogs had gotten into the enclosure, and led the group that way. The party didn't realize the moose were behind a fence until the animals were already dead. They informed the zoo of what had happened themselves.
Chairman of the county's wildlife tribunal Arne Nysted said he saw no reason to prosecute the hunters, explaining to the Local that "this is a regrettable mistake made in connection with lawful hunting on the outside of the park…it was a fatal error, but everyone understands that it was not done at all on purpose.” The zoo does, however, intend to seek damages.
Some are expressing displeasure with this decision over social media. One person posted to the zoo's Facebook page, "I am very sorry to hear that you are not going to prosecute the 'eager' hunter who killed your two moose. I think that sends the wrong message to this man. Even if it was an 'accident' he was irresponsible and negligent. Please rethink your decision."
Recently, two separate Danish zoos have made headlines for their frighteningly Darwinian approach to zoo-keeping: One killed a healthy giraffe and publicly dismembered and fed the body to lions; another held a public lion dissection.
Another commenter on the zoo's Facebook page wrote, "Why would you not want to fully prosecute a hunter who fires into and kills the animals in your zoo? How are the children and families safe to visit if you allow this to go on? Getting compensation does not make it ok. Don't put yourself in the same category as the Danish Zoos."
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.