March 7 (UPI) — Poachers broke into a French zoo, killing a 4-year-old white rhinoceros and removing one of its horns.
Zookeepers on Tuesday found the rhino named Vince in the African enclosure of the Thoiry zoo, west of Paris. Poachers shot the animal in the head and fled before they could remove the second, smaller horn, zoo officials said.
“Vince was found this morning by the keeper who was very attached to him and is deeply upset,” the zoo announced on Facebook. “This odious act was carried out even though there were five staff members living on site and security cameras.”
Two other rhinos in the enclosure, Gracie, 37, and Bruno, 5, “escaped the massacre” and were unharmed, the zoo said on Facebook.
“It’s possible the thieves didn’t have time to take the others,” a police spokesman said.
The poachers entered the rear entrance to the zoo by forcing a grill. They broke through two other locked doors into the building containing the rhinos.
Vince, who was born in a zoo in the Netherlands, and transported to the French zoo with Bruno. They are among 250 rhinos in European zoos that are part of a breeding program.
An estimated 21,000 white rhinos remain in the wild worldwide, mainly in South Africa and Uganda.
In Asia, the horns are valued for their supposed aphrodisiac qualities. Their value is about $132,000 per pound.
“The theft of rhinoceros horns are rising across Europe, but it’s the first time an animal park has suffered an attack leading to the death of a rhinoceros,” the zoo said.
In February, a California auctioneer was indicted in New York on federal charges of conspiring to smuggle endangered rhinoceros horns. Eight separate or attempted deals involved 15 rhinoceros horns that were worth an estimated $2.4 million.