Czech zoo to saw off rhino horns after French killing

A baby Southern White Rhino named Vita with its mother Donsa at the Singapore Zoo.
A baby Southern White Rhino named Vita with its mother Donsa at the Singapore Zoo.PHOTO: ST FILE

PRAGUE (AFP) - A Czech zoo said Tuesday (March 14) it would use a chainsaw to remove the horns from its herd of rare rhinos after a brutal attack last week in a French zoo where poachers shot dead a white rhino and hacked off its horns.

"It's for the sake of rhino safety," Andrea Jirousova, spokeswoman for the zoo in the central Czech town of Dvur Kralove nad Labem, told AFP.

"The attack (in France) put us on alert, the danger is really intense," she said, but declined to reveal when the surgery would take place.

On March 7, the zoo in Thoiry near Paris said unknown intruders had broken security barriers and killed a male rhino of the critically endangered southern white subspecies for its horns.

The Dvur Kralove zoo currently has a herd of 21 black and southern white rhinos, including three calves who will not undergo surgery.

Black market rhino horn sells for up to $60,000 (S$84,000) per kilo - more than gold or cocaine - with most demand from China and Vietnam where it is coveted as a traditional medicine and aphrodisiac.

Jirousova said vets would put the rhinos under anaesthesia before removing their horns with a chainsaw and filing the sharp edges.

"We have never done this because of poachers. We did it for other reasons like transport or health concerns," she added.

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

In 2009, it placed three northern white rhinos - one male and two females - in the Ol Pejeta reserve in Kenya.

They are the last survivors of this subspecies, but they are not capable of breeding.

The zoo said Tuesday experts would try to remove eggs from the two females at Ol Pejeta this year to save the subspecies by means of in-vitro fertilisation and embryo transfer to surrogate mothers.

The northern white rhinoceros has been nearly wiped out by hunting and poaching for their horns, and by wars in Africa, according to the World Wildlife Foundation.