Czech zoo sawing off rhino horns to thwart poachers

Dehorned rhinoceros definitely better than a dead one, says zoo chief after Paris incident

A Czech zoo began the practice of cutting the horns off of its rhinoceros' on Monday (March 20), following the killing of a rare white rhino at a French zoo by poachers. The first rhino to lose its horn was Pamir, a white rhino male.

A Czech zoo has started sawing off the horns of its 21 rhinos to protect them from poaching after a rhinoceros was killed in France earlier this month.

The zoo in Dvur Kralove, some 150km (90 miles) northeast of Prague, keeps 17 black rhinos and four southern white ones - the largest group in Europe.

“The decision to remove rhino horns was not made easily at all,” Premysl Rabas, the zoo’s head, said in a statement.

Thai customs officer with seized rhino horns during a press conference at the customs office in Suvarnabhumi airport, Bangkok, Thailand, March 14th, 2017. Thai authorities seized 21 rhino horns smuggled from Ethiopia and worth almost $5 million, customs officials said. File photograph: Sakchai Lalit/AP Photo

“However, the risk that the rhinos currently face not only in the wild but even in zoos is too high, and the safety of the animals is our first concern. A dehorned rhino is definitely a better option than a dead rhino.”


Southern white male

The first rhino to go under the chainsaw on Monday was Pamir, a southern white rhino male, and others will lose their horns in the near future.

The zoo said the rhinos are anaesthetised but the procedure itself is not painful. The horns gradually grow back.

Global trade in rhino horn is banned by a United Nations convention. Demand for the horn is strong in newly affluent Asian countries such as Vietnam, where it is prized as an ingredient in traditional medicines, and African authorities have struggled to counter rampant poaching.

Poachers broke into a French zoo on March 7th and killed a white rhinoceros for its horn, the first such case in Europe.

Thoiry zoo, near to Paris, in said in a statement that a kilogramme (2.2 lb) of rhino horn fetched €51,000 on the black market in 2015.

On March 12th, Belgium’s Pairi Daiza zoo said it will take the same steps with its four rhinos.