The city of Paris, France, is in mourning today after the body of Vince, a 4-year-old endangered white rhino, was discovered dead in his enclosure on the night of March 6 with three gunshots to his head, his largest horn having been removed with a chainsaw. Brazen poachers are suspected in this horrific crime.
Vince, who was born in the Netherlands in 2012, moved to Paris in 2015. He joined two other white rhinos at the Thoiry Zoo, west of the French capital. Authorities believe the perpetrators of this attack may have also planned to steal the horns of the other two rhinos. Both animals are reported as safe and healthy.
Rhinoceros horns are extremely expensive when sold on the black market. A pound of ground horn can be worth more than $30,000. China is the number one purchaser of rhino horn. When ground up, it is believed to have aphrodisiac qualities or used to treat a variety of illnesses.
This attack marks the first time poachers have targeted an animal living in a European zoo. The majority of seized rhino horns have come from pieces stolen from auctions or other exhibition venues.
The white rhinoceros is the largest and most social species of rhino and a relative conservation success story. The Northern White Rhino is nearly extinct, with only three confirmed individuals left, all of whom are in captivity. The Southern White Rhino, however, has a population close to 20,000 individuals in the wild, thanks to a strong conservation and anti-poaching effort.
Due to the high demand for ground rhino horn, several highly organized, well-funded and very profitable international poaching syndicates have come to target the already-vulnerable White Rhino population.
Vince's murder is believed to have been carried out by one or more poachers seeking to sell his horns on the black market. The second horn was partially removed, suggesting the thieves equipment malfunctioned or they ran out of time to collect.
For the time being, soldiers remain on guard around the rhino enclosure. Clues at the crime scene have remained inconclusive. The caliber of weapon used to attack Vince is currently unknown; autopsies are difficult due to the naturally thick Rhino hide.
Vince was of of 250 rhinos in European zoo breeding programs. Though the White Rhino is a conservation success story, it is nevertheless a threatened species that requires protection and help to survive.
Authorities hope to capture Vince's killers soon, learn how this startling attack took place and prevent any further attacks from happening in the future.