It seems like a drastic measure.
But after the killing of a white rhinoceros at the Thoriy Zoo in Paris earlier this month for its horn, Dvůr Králove Zoo opted to sawn off the horn off its first rhino.
“It is one of the safety measures to reduce the risk of any potential poaching attack,” the zoo said in a statement after Monday’s procedure on Pamir, a southern white male rhino.
“The decision to remove rhino horns was not made easily at all. 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. The dehorned rhino is definitely a better option than the dead rhino,” explained Přemysl Rabas, Director of Dvůr Králové Zoo. “Any other measures are not so deterring as the fact that in our zoo there are no rhinos with horns left.”
The animal was under anaesthetic during the procedure, which took under an hour and there were no complications. The facility says it will cut off the horns of all its 21 rhinos that require it. Some of the animals, such as a male named Natal, rubs it down and off anyway.
Over time the horns, which are made mostly of keratin, grow back. But consumer demand for the supposed medicinal value, largely in Vietnam and China, is spurring on poachers even though the horn has no proven health benefits for humans.
Dvůr Králové Zoo is not the only facility taking such a dramatic step after that poaching incident in France.
The Senegal Bandia Reserve also decided to remove the horns off their rhinos last week and the Pairi Daiza zoo in Belgium has announced it will do the same. British police have warned their local zoos that their rhinos may be under threat from organized poachers. And, across Europe gangs have targeted rhino trophies in museums and castles.
Photos Dvůr Králové Zoo