A four-year-old white rhino has been shot and killed at Thoiry Zoo, about an hour west of Paris.
Police say that one of the rhino’s horns had been cut off with a chainsaw. It is thought that a poacher is behind the attack, as rhino’s ivory horns are in high demand on the black market. A kilo of rhino horn can collect as much as €57,000 per kilogram.
Tuesday morning’s attack is thought to be the first example of poachers killing a rhino living in a European zoo for their ivory horns, though other non-lethal attacks have taken place.
The assailants are believed to have broken into the safari park-style establishment overnight.
The rhino, named Vince, was found dead after being shot three times in the head. One horn was taken, though his second horn was only partially sawn-off, and left. It appears the poachers were disturbed, and fled, before they could remove Vince’s second horn.
The zoo said their other white rhinos, 37-year-old Gracie and five-year-old Bruno (pictured above) escaped what they described as a “massacre”.
Zoo director Thierry Duguet described the attack as “unbelievable” and “extremely shocking”. On Facebook, the zoo said Vince was found by a “keeper who was very attached to him and is deeply upset”.
How on earth did poachers get into the zoo in France to kill the poor Rhino, don't they protect the animals in there care??— Carol Dickinson (@cazziedd) March 7, 2017
Paul de La Panouse, a former employee at the zoo, told the press: “Animal parks throughout Europe have been put on alert to look out… to get into these places they have to climb 3.5 metre fences, go through padlocked doors. It’s not easy to kill a rhino weighing several tonnes just like that. It’s a job for professionals”.
“The theft of rhinoceros horns are rising across Europe, but it’s the first time an animal park has suffered an attack leading to the death of a rhinoceros,” the zoo management said.
The white rhino is an endangered species, with only around 21,000 remaining in the wild.
France outlawed the trade of ivory and horns in 2016.