A giraffe head on display at an Auckland antique shop has outraged passersby with some demanding the shop remove the stuffed animal.
The owner of The Antique Shop in Howick bought the head from Cordys Auction house last week and admitted he had received mixed feedback about the piece.
"We have had some nasty calls," owner Ted Waters said. "We even had one chap saying he wanted to burn the shop down."
Waters said the head and neck was of a fully grown giraffe and was part of a collection of 15 animals culled in a South African wildlife park.
The giraffe was thought to be around 80 years old. Similar pieces sell for around $8500. The previous owner was a medical professional who had studied the animals and was downsizing his collection.
Celebrity photographer Norrie Montgomery spotted the giraffe head outside the shop and was so upset he posted it to Facebook, attracting more than 100 comments.
"Giraffes are such a gentle animal and to see this head and neck protruding from a shop front in suburban Auckland is just bad taste," Montgomery said.
The giraffe is now inside the store.
Online debate ranged from those disgusted by the display to others who weren't offended. One woman said she was worried about trophy heads becoming a trend and leading to demand and future deaths.
"We don't want to start having giraffes and other beautiful large wild animals popping up everywhere. It all starts with one and people get ideas just like a fashion trend," she said in a Facebook post.
Another said the stuffed animal was educational. "We can see how big and what they looked like, kids will look in amazement like we did as kids, I can't see why it's disgusting."
Waters said recent New Zealand auctions included a lion's head and stuffed polar bear, and a quick search showed auction house Webbs' upcoming auction included rhino horn (price guide $40,000-$45,000), giraffe skin ($3000-$4000) and a zebra head ($2800-$3200).
He bought the giraffe because it was "an interesting piece". He didn't want to offend anyone.
"My wife is vegetarian and we are respectful of animals but we see it as an interesting piece."
Isabel McCrea from International Fund for Animal Welfare said even though the giraffe was killed years ago and was probably imported legally into New Zealand its display was "particularly gruesome and ethically questionable".
"Given the consumer complaints it has generated, it is clear the New Zealand public feel the same way," she said.
Webbs could not be reached for comment.
Old, ill zoo animals put down
Auckland Zoo put down more than 50 animals last year, including an elderly chimpanzee with heart failure, a serval with arthritis and nine ducklings.
Senior media and communications co-ordinator Jane Healy said 52 animals were put down on medical or welfare grounds from the zoo's collection of more than 2000 animals.
The dead animals included 14 mammals, some suffering chronic and incurable illnesses.
Last year's casualty list featured a 60-year-old chimpanzee with a range of severe illnesses including heart disease, a 15-year-old cotton top tamarin with cancer and a 13-year-old serval with debilitating arthritis.
Most of the animals put down were birds, reptiles, fish and invertebrates, she said.
An adult female kiwi savagely attacked by a fox terrier was one of 10 wildlife casualties needing to be put down.
A further unspecified number of rodents and chickens were killed as feedstock.
Healy said when any animal at the zoo was put down staff used humane techniques approved by the zoo's ethics committee. But no animals were put down last year as a result of genetic over-representation.
The Copenhagen Zoo caused a furore this month after killing a healthy giraffe to avoid inbreeding, then feeding it to lions in front of onlookers, including children.
Healy said if genetic over-representation occurred in Auckland Zoo, staff sought to re-house the animal elsewhere in the world.
If this was not possible, the animal was culled.
- Lynley Bilby