Fearful European Zoos To Cut Off Their Rhinos' Horns After Paris Poaching Attack

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Even the toughest of animal lovers were shocked by the deadly rhino poaching at Thoiry Zoological Park in Paris last week, where poachers shot a white rhino and stole its horn. In light of this extremely messed-up news, Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic has now said it will chop off the horns of its resident rhinos to avoid temptation, AFP news agency reports.

“It’s for the sake of rhino safety,” Andrea Jirousova, spokeswoman for the zoo, told AFP. “The attack [in France] put us on alert, the danger is really intense.”

The zoo currently holds a mixed herd of 21, made up of southern white rhinos and black rhinos. Numbers of black rhino have declined by 97 percent since 1960. The numbers of southern white rhino subspecies are also considered to be “near threatened” with extinction by the IUCN Red List.

The plan is to dehorn 18 of these rhinos to ensure they aren't desirable to poachers, sparing three of the calves due to their young age. The zoo didn’t say when the operations will take place but they will be performed under general anesthetic and will be painless for the animals. It’s most likely vets will have to use a chainsaw to perform the operation due to the thickness of the horn.

A Belgian zoo is taking similar steps to discourage poachers. The Pairi Daiza zoo, near the capital Brussels, recently explained in a statement from the zoos' director Eric Bomb, that it will shorten the horns of its white rhinos as an “an additional security measure” following the events in France.

By the kilo, rhino horn is pricier than caviar, cocaine, and gold, with a single horn fetching as much as $300,000. They are sold on the black market, mainly in China and Vietnam, under the pretense of being a traditional medicine and aphrodisiac. Saddest of all, these mystical properties are total nonsense. Rhino horns are actually made entirely of keratin, the same protein that makes up most of our skin, hair, and nails. Using rhino horn as a medicine is as much use as chewing on toenails.

Nevertheless, the illegal multi-billion dollar market is thriving. European museums have suffered a string of burglaries targeting their rhino horns over the past decades. In the light of the recent poaching at Thoiry Zoological Park, it’s looking like dehorning rhinos might become a necessity.

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