In Brief

Why one zoo is sawing off the horns of 21 rhinos

Czech zoo says poaching risk in Europe is 'too high' after killing at French rhino enclosure

A Czech zoo is removing the horns from its 21 rhinos following an attack at a French zoo in which a rhino was shot dead by poachers who stole the animal's horn.

Premysl Rabas, the director of Dvur Kralove zoo, said the decision was "not made easily", but that the risk to rhinos with their valuable horns intact has become "too high".

"The safety of the animals is our first concern," he said. "A dehorned rhino is definitely a better option than a dead rhino."

Only about 30,000 rhinos remain after poachers killed about 9,000 in the last nine years in order to sell the horns in Asia.

Dvur Kralove bred the world's last three remaining northern white rhino, the most endangered rhino species, which now live in Kenya.

On Monday, Pamir, a southern white rhino male, became the first to have its horn removed, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Eventually, all 21 rhinos currently living at the zoo will have their horns, which have no live tissue, sawn off.

The zoo's communications director, Jan Stejskal, compared the procedure to trimming fingernails. "It has no impact on the life of the animal," he said.

On 7 March, Vince, a four-year-old southern white rhino, was found dead by keepers at Thoiry Zoological Park near Paris. He had been shot and his horns hacked off with a chainsaw by intruders who broke into the enclosure at night.

The attack, believed to be the first of its kind in Europe, was a "warning sign for zookeepers that poaching could be spreading beyond the killing fields of Africa and Asia," Sky News reports.

Rhino horn is a prized ingredient in traditional Chinese and Vietnamese medicine, but a UN ban on global horn trade has made it increasingly hard to source.

According to the International Rhino Foundation, the illegal horn trade "has doubled since 2013" and is now at its highest level in 20 years, with South Africa the primary source of poached horns.

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