In Brief

How rhino was shot by poachers in French zoo

Four-year-old male killed in first suspected European poaching incident

A rhino has been shot dead in a French zoo enclosure in a poaching incident thought to be the first of its kind in Europe.  

Vince, a four-year-old male white rhino, was found dead in his enclosure at the Thoiry zoo and wildlife park on Tuesday morning after an overnight break-in, the zoo said. The zoo lies 50km west of Paris.

One or more poachers are believed to have broken into the zoo and forced their way into an enclosure where three rhinos lived, reported Le Parisien.

Police, who are investigating the crime, say the white rhino was shot three times in the head. One of its horns was sawn off, probably with a chainsaw.

The break-in occurred despite security cameras in the zoo and five staff members on site, says Buzzfeed News.

A Facebook post published by the zoo says the staff were all upset by the events, particularly Vince's keeper who had become very attached to him.

"All the staff are completely shocked," zoo officials wrote, adding that police visited the zoo early on Tuesday to investigate the "massacre".

It's believed the poachers broke into the zoo through an outer gate near the site's "African Plain" area, before breaking down two more doors at the rhinoceros enclosure, staff added.

"They then killed Vince, a young four-year-old male, to cut off one of his horns, probably with a chainsaw," they said. "His second horn was only partially cut, which suggests that the criminals were disturbed or that their equipment proved defective."

Rhinoceros horns can be sold on the black market for around £30,000 each and are particularly sought after in China, where they are believed to have aphrodisiac qualities, says The Independent

French Environment Minister Segolene Royal tweeted about Vince's "criminal slaughter", calling for countries to "introduce a ban on trading in ivory and horns as I did in France".

The Zoological Society of London, which has a herd of rhinoceroses at its Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire, has stepped up its security in the wake of the attack. British zoos are home to 111 rhinoceroses, according to The Times.

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