March 2017

How can we ensure the security of our rhinos in Europe?

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In the early hours of Tuesday 7 March, keepers found the carcass of Vince, a four-year-old white rhinoceros, with its horn removed with a chain saw. Armed poachers broke into the zoo through a rear entrance during night-time, shot Vince in the head and sawed off the large horn. The police believe the poachers were interrupted before removing the second horn, and fled.

This poaching incident is truly shocking, and it is very sobering to think that armed criminals are now willing to break into European zoos to kill rhinos. While there have been previous cases of horn thefts from museums, auction houses and private collections in Europe, this is the first time that armed poachers broke into a zoo and killed a rhino for its horn.

How can we ensure the security of our rhinos in Europe?

In the wake of the poaching incident in France, many zoos have been taking measures to increase their security and ensure the safety of both the staff and animals. In the UK, the police are set to visit every zoo or park housing rhinos to evaluate security measures and discuss any steps forward. In the Czech Republic, Dvůr Králové Zoo decided to start a process of dehorning its 21 resident rhinos in response to the incident at Parc zoologique de Thoiry earlier this month. The first of its rhinos, a white rhinoceros Pamir, was anesthetised and dehorned on Monday 20 March. The authorities are hoping that this will help increase the security of the animals, and discourage poachers from targeting the Zoo.

As Susie Offord-Woolley, Managing Director at Save the Rhino highlights, the zoos are now facing increased pressure to both ensure the welfare of its animals and provide the essential security. Despite the growing fear of armed poachers attacking zoos across Europe, we believe that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Zoos should follow the advice of EAZA, the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, and evaluate security measures on an individual basis.

The current poaching crisis has been escalating since 2008 and is being driven by the increasing demand for rhino horn in countries like Vietnam and China. Rhino horn is mistakenly believed to have medicinal purposes, and more recently, is now also commonly perceived as a status symbol to display someone’s success and wealth. The incident at Parc de Thoiry represents a new development in the poaching crisis, with armed criminals killing a rhino in captivity on a European soil. It highlights the need for effective enforcement and security measures not just in Africa and Asia, but also in Europe and around the world.

You can read more about the illicit demand for rhino horn here, and find out more about the question of dehorning rhinos in our 'Thorny Issues' section.

(3) Comments

  • Allan Tiley
    29 March 2017, 13:11

    I was lucky enough to have a close encounter experience with the Rhino's at Colchester Zoo recently, including the five week old baby.
    It is almost unbelievable that anyone could believe there are any benefits from taking Rhino horn. Counties where the Rhino horn is going should have severe sanctions against their governments, to ensure they do more to educate the people who believe that Rhino horn will in no way improve their quality of life, and to stop the horns from entering their countries.

  • Wayne
    30 March 2017, 20:16

    It saddens me to think that after many, many years of trying to protect Rhino and Elephants, we are still not achieving the desired result. Maybe, it would be for the best if these species did become extinct in the wild so we could concentrate in keeping them safe in enclosed 24 hour security compounds-zoo's.
    It will be only when ' wrong doers' are punished by death these animals might have a chance back into the wild.

  • Claire Williams
    01 April 2017, 14:56

    I was truly horrified by the vicious killing of the lovely rhino Vince at a European zoo. I feel sickened and helpless. Until we raise awareness in the younger population in China and other such countries where their misinformed nonsensical beliefs about the properties of the horn this horror will continue.
    I am pleased to hear that one European zoo is taking the step of removing the horns from it's rhinos. I have another suggestion that may work and that is to dye the horn with the special red dye that Africian National parks have tried. This would also raise awareness of the rhinos plight when people visit the zoo and ask why the rhinos horn is red. Then this will improve education as the zoo can put up information about the horn just being made of the protein keratin which has no more medicinal quality than a human finger nail.
    I am so saddened. Claire

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