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Czech zoo to saw off rhinos' horns to protect them from poachers

The announcement comes a week after a four-year-old white rhino was shot dead by poachers who stole its horn at a zoo near Paris.

A pair of southern white rhinos who live at an Australian zoo are seen in a file photo. A Czech zoo has announced they will dehorn their herd of rhinos to avoid the fate suffered by a captive rhino killed by poachers in France.

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A pair of southern white rhinos who live at an Australian zoo are seen in a file photo. A Czech zoo has announced they will dehorn their herd of rhinos to avoid the fate suffered by a captive rhino killed by poachers in France.

A Czech zoo says they will dehorn their rhinos with a chainsaw before poachers do it first.

The decision is a response to last week’s gruesome scene at a French zoo after intruders broke into a secure pen to shoot a rhino and saw off its horn.

“The attack put us on alert, the danger is really intense,” said Dvur Kralove Zoo spokesperson Andrea Jirousova. “It’s for the sake of rhino safety.”

The zoo is home to a herd of 21 black rhinos and southern white rhinos, both of which are endangered species. It is also the only facility in the world to successfully breed the even more rare northern white rhino in captivity. Three northern whites – one male and two females – were moved from the zoo to a Kenyan wildlife reserve in 2009.

The trio are the last remaining northern white rhinos in captivity and they are kept under armed guard 24 hours a day. Neither female has given birth in the years since they were moved to Kenya, and scientists are planning to extract their eggs to attempt in-vitro fertilizations as part of a last ditch bid save the species.

Big Bucks On The Black Market

A screenshot taken from video shows Vince on the day he arrived at his new home at the Thoiry zoo in 2015. He was killed by poachers in his secure pen last week.

YouTube/Parc Zooloqique de Thoiry

A screenshot taken from video shows Vince on the day he arrived at his new home at the Thoiry zoo in 2015. He was killed by poachers in his secure pen last week.

Officials at the Thoiry Zoo in France still have not identified the culprits in the overnight attack that killed their four-year-old rhino, Vince.

“It’s extremely shocking. An act of such extreme violence has never happened before in Europe,” zoo director Thierry Duguet told reporters last week.

A zookeeper discovered the animal’s body in its pen, where the poachers had to break through two padlocked doors to reach him. His smaller horn was partly shorn off, leading zoo officials to conclude the poachers were interrupted during the crime.

Though Vince’s killing was the first fatal attack on rhino in a European zoo, they are a frequent target of poachers in their native habitats. Some parks have been pre-emptively sawing off their animals' horns for years.

Rhino horns can fetch tens of thousands of dollars in a black market that primarily serves customers in Asia. This week, the South African government confirmed plans to allow a regulated trade in rhino horns.

The decision ignited fury among conservationists worried for the future survival of the species.

“The risk we run at the moment is that if we open up trade and poaching escalates we will have no rhinos in he wild,” said South African conservationist Allison Thomson. “We will only have rhinos on farms, being farmed like cows.”

However, advocates say banning rhino horn sales only makes poaching more lucrative by inflating their value on the black market.

“Banning the trade in horn has made the horn more and more and more valuable,” said South African rhino breeder John Hume.

“Had we never banned it, the price of the horn would never have got to where it is now. And the Parisian rhino would be safe in its zoo because its horn would have been worth a fraction of what it is.”

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- with files from the Associated Press

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