There has been much talk in the media about the horrendous practice of Poachers killing rhinos for their horn. The horn of the African rhino is a treasured item on the black market, commanding high prices, and according to the BBC, around 100 of the animals are killed each month in the wild.

However, this time around, it was a rhino living in a zoo that was killed, shot dead, with one of his horns hacked off with a chainsaw. The four-year-old rhino in question went by the name of Vince and was found lying dead in his enclosure at Thoiry Zoo, located west of the city of Paris on Tuesday morning.

The incident is believed to be the first of its kind to happen in Europe.

Zoo staff is 'extremely shocked' by the attack on the rhino

Thierry Duguet is head of the Parc Zoologique de Thoiry, as it is named in French. Duguet told a local radio station that he and the zoo’s staff are “extremely shocked” by what happened, adding that nothing like this has happened in a European zoo before. He said it was a violent assault on the rhino, evidently by poachers trafficking rhino horns.

As reported by The New York Times, the zoo made a statement on Facebook today to say a male rhino named Vince was found dead in his enclosure by one of his caretakers this morning. Reportedly the animal had gunshot wounds to his head and had, in fact, been shot three times.

Duguet also said a fence and several doors, one of which was metal, had been broken and that it looked like the assailant used a chainsaw to remove the rhinos horn.

The statement from the zoo said Vince’s second horn was also partially sawed through, suggesting the poachers were interrupted in their actions, or possibly that their chainsaw was faulty.

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All of this went on, despite the fact that five members of the zoo staff live on site and there are surveillance cameras in place.

Two other rhinos in the zoo were unharmed

Reportedly there are two other white rhinos in the zoo – Bruno, 5 and Gracie, 37 – but luckily both were unharmed. Vince was born in a zoological park in Arnhem in the Netherlands and was introduced to the zoo in Thoiry back in 2015, along with Bruno.

France has outlawed the trade in ivory and horns

Last year, France outlawed the trade in ivory and rhino horns and has become actively involved in breeding programs. Both Bruno and the late Vince were part of a breeding program involving 250 animals in European zoos. Reportedly the breeding program is a conservation success, as white rhinos were close to extinction late in the 19th century – nowadays there is a population of around 20,000 rhinos alive in the world. However, despite intensive efforts to both protect the rhinos – and breed more – poaching has risen in recent years, with Asian markets – including Vietnam and China – prizing the horns for what they believe to be their aphrodisiac properties. According to the BBC report, just one kilo (2.2 lb) of rhino horn can bring in around $60,000 for a poacher.