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Poachers kill rhino at French zoo; cut off horn with chainsaw

Poachers kill rhino at French zoo; cut off horn with chainsaw

Poachers broke into a French zoo overnight and fatally shot a rhinoceros before using a chain saw to remove his ivory horn, authorities said Tuesday.

While rhino horn-consumers normally find horns in auctions and other exhibition venues, this would be the first time in Europe that poachers attack an animal living in a zoo in such a fashion.

The white rhino was shot in the head several times. The animal's second, smaller horn was cut but not fully removed, which suggests that the poachers left in a hurry, police told reporters.

Vince lived with two other white rhinos: five-year-old Bruno and 37-year-old Gracie. In South Africa, which is home to 80 percent of remaining rhinos, poaching deaths surged from 83 in 2008 to a record 1,215 in 2014.

It adds that rhino horns are popular aphrodisiacs in Asia. The closely related southern white rhino subspecies (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) has only three living members, all of whom live under protection at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

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Rhino horns, which are nothing more than keratin - the same substance as fingernails - are prized for their "medicinal" properties. "Thousands have been brutally slaughtered by poachers over recent years, to supply horn into illegal markets mainly in Vietnam and China". Protection efforts were largely successful, with some 20,000 animals in protected areas and private game reserves - in fact, they're the "only rhinos that are not endangered".

Vince was born at Burgers' Zoo in the Netherlands in 2012, and was transferred to the Thoiry Zoo in March 2015.

"White rhinos are a spectacular conservation success story, but the current poaching crisis could reverse all of our conservation gains", Matthew Lewis, an African species expert writes on WWF's website.

On their Facebook page, the zoo described the "heinous act" and revealed it had "deeply affected" the animal's carer.


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