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A Czech zoo has decided to remove the horns of 18 white rhinos after a deadly at

tack last week at a French zoo where poachers shot a rhino and used a chainsaw t
o cut off its horns. Welcome to the new normal, where even zoo animals have to b
e mutilated to protect them from poaching.
To quickly recap, poachers broke into the Thoiry Zoo near Paris on the night of
March 7th, shot a four-year old white rhino named Vince twice in the head, and t
hen used a chainsaw to cut off his horns. Brutal, right? It was the first attack
of its kind in European zoo, and it s clearly rattled zoo officials around the wo
rld.
In the Czech Republic, officials with the Dvur Kralove Zoo said they re going to u
se a chainsaw to remove the horns of 18 rhinos at the facility. It s for the sake o
f rhino safety, Andrea Jirousova, a spokesperson for the zoo, told the Guardian. T
he attack [in France] put us on alert, the danger is really intense.
For the procedure, vets will put the rhinos under anesthesia before removing the
ir horns with a chainsaw and filing down the sharp edges. The removal of rhino h
orns causes no permanent damage to their health, and the horn eventually grows b
ack. The Dvur Kralove Zoo has never had to do this before, except for reasons li
ke transport or health concerns. The Czech zoo is particularly sensitive to the
issue, given that it s the only facility in the world to have successfully bred th
e rare white rhinos while in captivity. In 2009, the zoo relocated three norther
n white rhinos to the Ol Pejeta reserve in Kenya.
It s difficult to know if these precautions are reasonable and a proportionate res
ponse to an emerging trend, or if the attack at the French zoo was an isolated i
ncident, but the zoos aren t taking any chances. Similar to the Dvur Kralove Zoo,
the Pairi Daiza Zoo in Belgium is planning to shorten its rhinos horns as an anti
-poaching measure, and to protect its security personnel as well. In the past, r
hino horns have been stolen from European museums, so it s not ridiculous to think
that captive rhinos, who are kept in zoos where the security is lax, are at ris
k.
As for the Paris attack, police investigators say they have reason to believe th
e attack at the Thoiry zoo was orchestrated by an organized trafficking ring. Th
e unknown perpetrators have still not been found, and they re in possession of a h
orn valued as high as $42,000. Though the sale of rhino horn is illegal, the con
traband item is coveted in China and Vietnam for its alleged medicinal qualities
and as an aphrodisiac. At an estimated value of $54,000 to $60,000 per kilo, rh
ino horn is more valuable than gold or cocaine.
Wild rhinos in Africa face a similar threat, and conservationists have resorted
to similar measures. Recently, dozens of rhinos at the Phinda Game Reserve in So
uth Africa were sedated and had their horns sawed off. The northern white rhino
has been decimated by poaching, and there s fear that rhino deaths will soon overt
ake births.