7 March 2017

The depths to which some people are prepared to stoop to make money at the expense of wild animals reached a new low with the news that a white rhinoceros named Vince had been killed for his horn at a zoo near Paris.

Reports suggest that one or more poachers broke into Thoiry Zoo to the west of Paris on the night of Monday 6th March, shot the rhino in the head several times, then cut off his horn with a chain saw.

It is believed that the poachers were intending to target all three white rhinos resident at the zoo, but made off with a single horn when they were disturbed.

Vince was born at a zoo in the Netherlands in 2012, and moved to Thoiry zoo in 2015.

Only around 29,000 rhinos of all species remain across the world. At just over 20,000, Southern white rhinos are the most numerous, more than 80% of which are in South Africa. One-horned rhinos in India and Nepal are considered to be Endangered, while Africa’s black rhinos and Indonesia’s Sumatran and Javan rhinos are Critically Endangered.

Poaching for their horns is the biggest threat currently facing rhinos. In South Africa alone, more than 6,000 rhinos were brutally killed by poachers between 2008 and 2015.

Rhino horn was originally used in traditional Asian medicine, but in spite of an international commercial trade ban under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), it is increasingly sought as a recreational ‘drug’, high-status gift, and investment opportunity. Rumours originating in Vietnam that rhino horn might cure cancer have fuelled the trade and pushed prices sky high: reports suggest that the product sells for as much as $100,000 per kg in illegal markets in Vietnam and China, making it more valuable, gram for gram, than gold or cocaine.

The appalling incident at Thoiry zoo comes at a time when South Africa is proposing to open up its domestic commercial trade in rhino horn and provide a mechanism by which rhino horns might be legally exported, to which the Born Free Foundation is totally opposed.

Veterinarian Mark Jones, Associate Director at the Born Free Foundation, said:

“Rhinos are in real crisis. Thousands have been brutally slaughtered by poachers over recent years, to supply horn into illegal markets mainly in Vietnam and China. The killing of Vince at Thoiry zoo near Paris marks a new low for these beleaguered ancient and noble creatures, and undermines the considerable efforts being made to protect remaining rhinos from poachers and reduce demand in consumer countries through public education programmes. It is vital that every effort is made to apprehend the poachers and bring them to justice, and to prevent the horn entering the illegal trade. Any trade in rhino horn fuels demand, encourages poachers and traffickers, and puts more rhinos at risk.”

While a spate of thefts of rhino horns from museums and zoos took place across parts of Europe in recent years, Vince’s death marks the first time a captive rhino has been killed for its horn in the Continent.

“Born Free has long campaigned against the keeping of wild animals in captivity”, continued Jones. “This incident brings into serious question just how safe rhinos and other animals that are potentially valuable to poachers and traffickers are in these facilities.”



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