Shocking: A rhino falls victim to poaching in the very heart of France

The Thiory Zoo, 60km from Paris, made a gruesome discovery this morning upon finding one of its three white rhinos killed by one or perhaps several poachers. On the night of 6 March, the culprits in question broke into the building holding the rhinos for the night which is situated at the back of the area dedicated to African species. The male 4-year-old rhino that was shot dead was called Vince and the poachers got away with one of his horns using a chainsaw.

This is the first time that an animal living in a European zoo has fallen victim directly to poaching, and this is despite the presence of five staff members living on the premises and surveillance cameras. It is much more commonplace for rhino horns to be stolen from museums, antique trade shows or auction houses. Rare and expensive, these horns are stolen as part of an estimated $19 Billion USD illegal wildlife trade, with rhino horns often going to Asia for medicinal products, luxury goods and more recently as investments.

On hearing the news, IFAW CEO Azzedine Downes commented, “This is poaching on a whole new level. Wild rhinos have been in the sights of poachers for many years. It’s horrifying to imagine a captive rhino falling prey to poachers’ bullets. Rhino horn simply does not have any magical or medicinal qualities and to think of these magnificent creatures being killed for their horns is utterly abhorrent.”

The white rhino is a highly endangered sub-species of rhino of which there are only an estimated 20 000 individuals still living in Africa today. Poaching cases related to this species have exploded over the last few years: in 2015, 1175 white rhinos were killed, and the rhino orphanage Thula Thula in South Africa was attacked several weeks ago.

In France, a decree published on 17 August 2016, banned all trade in raw ivory and rhino horn. Likewise, the European Union has recently passed the one-year anniversary of the establishment of the intergovernmental European Action Plan against wildlife trafficking. It is high time that laws were effectively enforced in order to avoid further senseless deaths of these creatures killed for their horns. 

--AM

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