A rhino has been shot dead by poachers at a zoo in France in what is believed to be the first incident of this kind in Europe.

Vince, the 4-year-old rhinoceros was found dead by keepers at the Thoiry Zoo, Paris, early on Monday morning.

It appeared he had been shot and a chainsaw had been used to slice off one of his horns. His second horn was partially hacked off, suggesting they were disturbed during the act.

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“The criminals were either interrupted or their equipment was defective,” the zoo said in a press release published on Facebook. “Our entire staff is in a huge state of shock. A police investigation was launched early this morning.”

This is the first time poachers have targeted a European zoo, and it is still not known how the poachers managed to get onsite.

Rhino’s horns can be sold for around £30,000 each on the black market and have a high demand in China, where they are believed to have aphrodisiac qualities.

“This is poaching on a whole new level,” Azzedine Downes, the president and CEO of IFAW, explained. “Wild rhinos have been in the sights of poachers for many years. It’s horrifying to imagine a captive rhino falling prey to poachers’ bullets.”

“Rhino horn simply does not have any magical or medicinal qualities and to think of these magnificent creatures being killed for their horns is utterly abhorrent,” he added.

Thoiry

The two other white rhino that lived with Vince, 37-year-old Gracie and 5-year-old Bruno, luckily survived the attack.

Despite rhino’s being at risk of extinction in recent years, they are still being poached at an alarming rate.

In 2016 it was estimated that 1,100 rhino’s were killed in South Africa alone, and 129 have been killed already this year.

It it thought there are currently around 20,000 left in the world.

“Rhinos are in real crisis,” Mark Jones, a veterinarian and associate director at the Born Free Foundation, said in a statement. “Thousands have been brutally slaughtered by poachers over recent years, to supply horn into illegal markets mainly in Vietnam and China. The killing of Vince at Thoiry zoo near Paris marks a new low for these beleaguered ancient and noble creatures, and undermines the considerable efforts being made to protect remaining rhinos from poachers and reduce demand in consumer countries through public education programs.”

“It is vital that every effort is made to apprehend the poachers and bring them to justice, and to prevent the horn entering the illegal trade,” Jones added. “Any trade in rhino horn fuels demand, encourages poachers and traffickers, and puts more rhinos at risk.”