Zoo removes rhinos' horns to prevent poaching

The first rhino to lose its horn was Pamir, a white rhino male.

The decision to remove the horn was hard and sad, Jan Stejskal, director of worldwide projects at the zoo, told CNN.

The attack at the Thoiry Zoo in France was a warning sign for zookeepers around the globe that poaching may be spreading beyond Africa and Asia.

A Czech zoo is sawing off the horns of 21 rhinos as a preemptive measure against poachers following the killing of a white rhinoceros in a zoo near Paris earlier this month as his horn was sawed off and stolen for sale in the surging ivory market.

Only about 30,000 rhinos remain after poachers killed about 9,000 in the last nine years in order to sell the horns in Asia.

He said: 'However, the risk that the rhinos now face not only in the wild but even in zoos is too high.

The animals are first anaesthetised but the procedure itself is not painful. The severed horns will gradually grow back again. The decision to dehorn was "not made easily", he said in a statement, but added that "the dehorned rhino is definitely a better option than the dead rhino".

"There is no live tissue [in the horn]", said Jan Stejskal, director of communications and global projects at Dvur Kralove.

Like hair and nails, horns are made of keratin, and removing them does not hurt, he said. If you cut it, it's like cutting your hair or your nails. "It has no impact on the life of the animal", he said.

"The intervention took less than one hour and it was performed without any complications".

The cut horns are being stored in "an area outside the zoo" according to its spokeswoman, Andrea Jirousova, who added that they will likely soon be burned in public.

Dvur Kralove is the world's only zoo to have succeeded in the captive breeding of the extremely rare northern white rhino.

On March 12 Belgium's Pairi Daiza zoo said that it too will take the same route with its four rhinos.

  • Leroy Wright