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.