March 2017

Rhino poached in European Zoo

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Photo credit: Phil Perry

The poaching of a rhino at Parc zoologique de Thoiry is truly shocking. To our knowledge, this is the first incident of its kind in a European zoo.

There have previously been incidents of horn thefts from museums, auction houses and private collections in Europe by European-based criminal networks, some of whom have been successfully prosecuted. Rhino horn is illegally used in parts of Asia, primarily China and Vietnam, where it is displayed whole as a luxury good or status symbol, or ground to a powder and used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

We are aware that intelligence has previously uncovered planned attacks on zoos in recent years and, in light of this, security in zoos has been greatly increased. In this case, as with all other poaching incidents, it will be vital that the crime scene is secured and investigated to gain as much forensic information as possible. We hope that arrests are quick and that this is an isolated incident.

The criminal networks running the illegal wildlife trade, including the trade in rhino horn, operate across borders. International cooperation and strong cross-border enforcement is needed to tackle them.

It is very sobering to think that armed criminals are willing to break into Europeans zoos to kill our rhinos. This incident also shows how security and protection are not just needed in range range states in Africa and Asia, but also for zoos in Europe, USA and the rest of the world.

As shocking as this incident is, the biggest threats to rhinos remain poaching and habitat loss in the rhino range states in Africa and Asia. Three rhino are killed a day on average in South Africa alone. This poaching incident at Parc de Thoiry is a new development in the poaching crisis, which has been escalating since 2008, and we need strong law enforcement to tackle this problem quickly.

A combination of effective law enforcement across the globe, strong penalties for poachers, environmental education, habitat protection and well-trained, well-equipped rangers, together with demand-reduction efforts in the countries buying and consuming rhino horn, are still the best ways to save the rhino. The illegal trade in rhino horn is affecting all of us around the world. At Save the Rhino International, we believe action is needed not just in Africa and Asia, but also in Europe and around the world.

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Notes to Editors

Save the Rhino International’s vision is for all five species to thrive in the wild for future generations. Our mission is to collaborate with partners to support endangered rhinos in Africa and Asia. Save the Rhino does this by the following strategies:

  • Raising funds to protect and increase rhino numbers and population distribution in African and Asian range states
  • Facilitating the exchange of technical support and information between rhino conservation stakeholders
  • Ensuring that local communities in key rhino areas benefit from employment, capacity building, education, outreach and the sustainable use of natural resources
  • Developing and delivering behaviour-change campaigns to reduce the demand for rhino horn in consumer countries
  • Raising awareness throughout the world of the need for and importance of rhino conservation
  • To find out more please visit www.savetherhino.org (UK registered charity 1035072).

The current poaching crisis

  • The new poaching crisis has been widely attributed to demand from a growing Vietnamese urban elite who consume rhino horn as a luxury good/ status symbol, as well as for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine in both Viet Nam and China
  • Contrary to popular belief, rhino horn is not used as an aphrodisiac
  • According to research conducted by TRAFFIC, an archetypal rhino horn consumer in Viet Nam is a wealthy, middle aged businessman who uses rhino horn to increase his social standing, often imbibing the ground product mixed with water, in a social setting.
  • As poachers have become more armed and sophisticated, the costs of protecting rhinos have also exponentially grown