French zoo killing: Poachers shoot 4yo rhino, cut horn with chainsaw in brazen attack outside Paris

French zoo killing: Poachers shoot 4yo rhino, cut horn with chainsaw in brazen attack outside Paris
A young white rhinoceros has been shot dead and mutilated by suspected poach hunters at a zoo west of Paris in a first shocking attack of its kind in Europe. Unidentified intruders broke into the enclosure with rhinos by night and left with the animal’s horn.

The poachers managed to sneak into the Thoiry zoo, some 50km (30 miles) from Paris, on Monday night despite tight security measures in place and five staff members living in the facility. To access the rare species the thieves forced out one of the outside grills, removed the metal door protecting the enclosure and dismantled the inner door, all of which allegedly went unnoticed.

Upon entering the enclosure that served as a home for three rhinoceroses, the perpetrators fired three shots at the 4-year-old rhino named Vince, and proceeded to saw off the horns from the dead animal, police said. An investigation into the attack has been launched.

So far the investigators have been unable to determine the type of weapon used by the attacker, as the rhino’s skin has reportedly proven too thick for X-rays to reveal any bullets.

As Vince’s body was discovered by his zookeeper on Tuesday morning, one of his horns was missing while the other was partially sliced off, the zoo administration said. They believe the intruders did not manage to complete their gruesome job either because something had frightened them away or their equipment had broken. 

Apart from Vince, two other white rhinos, 37-year-old Gracie and five-year-old Bruno, were in the enclosure at the time of the attack. Luckily, they were not hurt. 

Vince was brought to life in Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem in 2012 before he was moved to France in March 2015.

Up to now, instances of animals held in captivity being slaughtered for their horns have been unheard of in Europe. On its Facebook page, the zoo stated that all its staff are “extremely shocked” with what had happened, noting that the tragedy dealt a particularly heavy blow to Vince’s caretaker, who was “deeply attached to the animals.”

“Our fellow European park managers are astonished,” park director Thierry Duguet told France Bleu, adding that the gendarmes who were inspecting the scene were “stunned” by what they had discovered.

Although the sale and purchase of elephants’ tusks, rhinoceros’ horns and all articles made from them is outlawed in France in accordance with a decree of August 18, 2016, there are few exceptions relating to items produced before 1975, which are granted on case-by-case basis.

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The smuggling of rhino horns has become a thriving and profitable business in a number of Asian countries after belief in their “healing” and other properties based on pseudo-scientific proof was spread there. According to the zoo, one kilogram of rhinoceros horn had a black market price of about 51,000 euros. Although southern white rhinoceros subspecies is not facing an imminent extinction as it did back in the 19th century, its population remains at endangered level with estimated 20,000 species. The majority of rhinos live in the wild in South Africa, while some 250 are owned by European zoos.