A horrific discovery was made on Tuesday, March 7 early in the morning in the Thoiry zoo, near Paris, France. Vince, one of the captive white rhinos, was killed in the early hours of the morning with three bullets in his head. His horn was gone, slashed from his face.
Source : Zoo de Thoiry
The 4-year-old animal was born in a zoo in the Netherlands, and arrived in France in 2015. Thierry Duguet, the zoo's director, was shocked by the tragic event and explained:
Our carer discovered the animal's corpse this morning around 9 a.m. when she was going to let him out of his enclosure.
— Parc de Thoiry (@zoothoiry) 11 mars 2015
The zoo's Facebook page posted a long statement (page in French). Ségolène Royal, France's Minister of the environment, also expressed her emotion on her Twitter account. (Criminal killing of a rhinoceros at #Thoiry. It's time for countries to ban the #ivory and horn trade as I have done in France.)
Abattage criminel d'un rhinocéros à #Thoiry. Il est temps que les pays interdisent commerce #ivoire et cornes comme je l'ai fait en France https://t.co/K63HiaLrEB — Ségolène Royal (@RoyalSegolene) 7 mars 2017
This murder is the first of its kind in Europe. The zoo has video surveillance and five security guards who were sleeping at the time of the killing.
The criminals forced open the fence and then jumped over the barrier, into the rhino enclosure. Vince's second horn had not been removed but showed cut marks. Duguet suspects:
The criminals were disturbed or […] their weapons were defective.
The two other white rhinos, Grace, aged 37 and Bruno, aged 5, escaped the massacre. An investigation was opened immediately in the hopes of shining light on this terrible news. The zoo has decided to take legal action against the perpetrators.
Source : Zoo de Thoiry
A particularly lucrative trade
The South white rhino's situation is less extreme than its sister species, the North white rhinoceros, of which there are only three individuals left in captivity in the entire world. In the wild, the species is considered extinct. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that even if the first species is not yet threatened, there is a high risk of its future becoming uncertain. The site Save The Rhino states that there are between 19 682 and 21 077 South white rhinos left on the African continent.
The constant destruction of their habitat and particularly the dramatic increase in cruel poaching are the principal threats to these magnificent animals. The Chinese and the Vietnamese, in particular, go crazy for traditional medicine that is made from rhinoceros horn. They attribute healing properties to it without any scientific evidence. Horn are also sometimes sculpted and transformed into works of art. In Yemen, the elite like to show off their wealth by having knives and swords made of rhino horn.
Source : AFP
The constant demand for this material has turned poaching into an extremely lucrative trade. The price of a pound of rhino horn can reach $32,000. That means that Vince's murderers have walked away with between $84,000 and $190,000 in their pockets.
Parks and museums have been targeted in the past, but to a lesser degree. Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, director of International Fund for Animal Protection in France and Francophone Africa, explained:
4 or 5 French museums have been robbed in the past 5 years, but this is the first time that an animal has been poached on European soil for its body parts.
Source : AFP
Vince's death is a precedent that has chilled European zoo directors and rhino activists to the bone.
The assassins could face up to four years in prison and $800,000 in fines, according to French law.