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.