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A Czech Zoo Is Cutting Off Its Rhinos' Horns to Protect Them from Poachers

The decision comes in the wake of a recent, brutal murder of a rhino at a zoo in Paris.

by Drew Schwartz
16 March 2017, 4:00am

Photo by Flickr user Rose Davies

Last week, poachers reportedly forced open a grate near the rear entrance of a zoo outside Paris, broke through two locked doors, snuck into a rhino enclosure, and shot four-year-old Vince—one of the park's most popular animals—twice in the head. They then used a chainsaw to cut off his horn and crept out undetected before morning came.

Now, officials with the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic plan to remove the horns from all 18 white rhinos before poachers can get to them, the Guardian reports.

"It's for the sake of rhino safety," Andrea Jirousova, a spokeswoman for the Czech zoo, told the Guardian. "The attack put us on alert, the danger is really intense."

Jirousova said those tasked with performing surgery on the zoo's southern white rhinos—a severely threatened species—will put them under anesthesia before using a chainsaw to remove their horns, which will eventually grow back. She said the zoo has done the surgery before for transportation and health concerns but never to ward off the threat of poachers.

Poachers do some pretty messed up things in the wild just to get their hands on lucrative animal parts—even going so far as to poison elephants with cyanide—but the break in at the French zoo was the first attack of its kind in Europe. It shocked conservationists across the continent, prompting not only Dvur Kralove to shave down its rhinos' horns but also the Pairi Daza Zoo in Brussels to do the same.

"To get into these places [poachers] have to climb 3.5-meter [11.5-foot] fences, go through padlocked doors," Paul de La Panouse, an official from the French zoo, told journalists. "It's not easy to kill a rhino weighing several tons just like that. It's a job for professionals."

According to the Guardian, rhino horns are more valuable than gold or coke and can get up to $60,000 per kilo on the black market. Often they're sold to clients in China and Vietnam as traditional medicine or aphrodisiacs. Poachers hunt down more and more rhinoceroses every year, which continues to drive up the price of their horns—and has even prompted park rangers in some parts of the world to start poaching the poachers.

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