08/03/2017 11:23 SAST | Updated 08/03/2017 11:23 SAST

For The First Time Ever, A Captive Rhino Was Poached In Europe

Intruders broke into a French zoo, shot dead a white rhinoceros and made off with its horn, in the first such an incident on European soil.

Christian Hartmann / Reuters
Thoiry zoo and wildlife park director Thierry Duguet poses in front of white rhinoceros Gracie at the enclosure in the Thoiry zoo and wildlife park, about 50 km (30 miles) west of Paris, France, March 7, 2017. Poachers broke into the zoo last night, shot dead four-year-old male white rhino called Vince, and sawed off its horn in what is believed to be the first time in Europe that a rhino in captivity has been attacked and killed.

Poachers broke into a zoo in the French commune of Thoiry, shot dead a four-year-old white rhinoceros on Monday night, in what is apparently the first such incident on European soil.

Reuters reported that the intruders shot the rhino three times in the head and made off with one its horns after breaking into the zoo at night. The crime was discovered on Tuesday morning by the zookeepers.

"The poachers broke through a gate at the wildlife park during the night and forced the metal door of the enclosure where the rhino lived, the zoo said. The two other rhinos living at the park, 37-year-old Gracie and five-year-old Bruno, were unharmed. Vince's second horn was partially cut, leading the zoo to believe that the intruders were disturbed or their equipment failed.

"The zoo had security measures in place, including surveillance cameras, and five members of staff live on site. Vince was brought to Thoiry in March 2015 after being born in a zoo in the Netherlands in 2012," said Reuters.

Rhino poaching has been an uncontrollable problem on African soil for the last decade. In South Africa alone, a record 1,215 rhinos were killed for their horns, though the numbers have tapered off slightly since then.

The problem is driven by a demand for traditional cures, which include rhino horn, in newly-affluent Asian countries such as Vietnam.

Poaching is such a rampant problem that the department of environmental affairs has commissioned studies into the effects of dehorning rhinos, and legalising the trade once again.

White rhinos almost went extinct in the last century, but several conservation efforts have brought the numbers back up to 20,000, according to conservation group Save The Rhino.