Following the recent news of a brutal attack at a French zoo last week where poachers shot dead a white rhino and hacked off its horn, a zoo in the Czech Republic has decided to make the decision to use a chainsaw to remove all of the horns of their rhinos. Andrea Jirousova, the spokeswoman for the zoo in the central Czech town of Dvur Kralove nad Labem, said, “It’s for the sake of rhino safety. The attack (in France) put us on alert, the danger is really intense.” The date of the horn removal at the zoo is currently unknown. The Dvur Kralove zoo currently has 21 black and southern white rhinos, which includes three young calves who will not have their horns removed at this time, according to recent reports.
The decision was made after unknown intruders broke security barriers and gained entrance into a rhino enclosure at a zoo in Thoiry near Paris on March 7. The poachers then proceeded to shoot a male white rhino in the head before sawing off his horn to sell for a huge profit. Rhino horn currently sells on the black market for around $60,000 (€56,400) per kilo, which is more than the price of gold or cocaine. The majority of demand for rhino horn comes from Asia, particularly from China and Vietnam where it is regarded as a traditional medicine or aphrodisiac. This practice in Asia has occurred for generations, despite the fact that rhino horn is actually made of keratin, which is the same protein that makes up human hair and nails and has no medicinal properties.
Jirousova has explained that the vets at the zoo would put the rhinos under anesthesia before removing their horns with a chainsaw and filing the sharp edges, which does not harm the rhinos. She said,
“We have never done this because of poachers. We did it for other reasons like transport or health concerns.”
The removal of the rhino’s iconic and distinguishable horn is a desperate attempt to deter poachers from killing the already endangered animals. Dvur Kralove is the world’s only zoo that has succeeded in the captive breeding of the extremely rare northern white rhino. In 2009, they placed three northern white rhinos, one male and two females, in the Ol Pejeta reserve in Kenya. These three rhinos are the last survivors of this subspecies and are not capable of breeding.
On Tuesday, the zoo announced that experts would attempt to remove the eggs from the last two female northern white rhinos at Ol Pejeta at some point during this year and try to save the subspecies by conducting in-vitro fertilization and embryo transfer to surrogate mothers. Hunting and poaching for rhino horns are the reasons why the northern white rhino has been almost entirely wiped out, except for the remaining three in Kenya, according to the World Wildlife Foundation. Despite ongoing efforts by wildlife conservation organizations to educate and spread awareness about the dangerously depleting rhino populations, the demand for rhino horn is still very strong in Asia.