#ShockWildlifeTruths: European zoos dehorning rhino following Paris attack

2017-03-16 09:45 - Louzel Lombard Steyn
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Cape Town - Desperate times call for desperate measures. 

Following a brutal poaching incident in a Parisian zoo, the Dvur Kralove nad Labem zoo in the Czech Republic in Europe has announced they will be dehorning 18 white rhino in their care in a bid to spare their lives. 

SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Paris Zoo rhino poaching highlights SA's dire fight

"It's for the sake of rhino safety," Andrea Jirousova, a spokeswoman for the Czech zoo, told the Guardian. "The attack put us on alert, the danger is really intense."

The Dvur Kralove zoo has a total of 21 black and southern white rhinos. Three calves in the herd, that still only have small horns or stubs, will not be dehorned yet. 

A Belgian zoo, the Pairi Daiza, also recently announced that it will shorten its rhinos' horns as an anti-poaching measure following the attack France. The zoo has three adult rhinos and a baby white rhino born in March 2016. 

Apart from the major effect the poaching epidemic has on the animals, it will also impact the way we human beings see wildlife. For a new generation of children visiting this Czech zoo, for example, it will be the norm to see hornless rhino. 

Europe’s 160 rhinos at risk

The brutal poaching of a rhino in its enclosure at a French zoo last week pointed to a new European frontier for greedy poachers that must be closed as a matter of urgency, environmentalists and officials warned.

Despite a dearth of scientific evidence that rhino horn has any curative powers, rhino horn commands astronomical prices - much more than gold or cocaine.

According to Europol, zoos and other public places with rhino horns on display or in storage must remain on alert for "possible 'visits' from persons likely to defraud or attack them to obtain specimens."

The NGO Robin des Bois recommends ramping up zoo patrols and giving guards the right to fire warning shots.

READ: Petition to stop SA’s sale of rhino horn launched as zoos warned to be on guard

It also wants to boost customs procedures and surveillance of postal services to stop the horns, whose sale is illegal everywhere, from ever reaching the Asian market.

Controversy in how to save the world's rhino 

Most recently, parties to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) held in Joburg in October 2016 voted overwhelmingly to protect rhinos by rejecting a proposal to legalise the rhino horn trade. 

The proposal submitted by Swaziland to legalise rhino horn trade was defeated 100-26 with 17 abstentions.  

South Africa has since put forward draft regulations to legalise the domestic trade of rhino horn, but the proposal has been met with major flack from conservationists globally, who fear that the move might stimulate the market. 

ALSO READ: #ShockWildlifeTruths: DEA wants to 'clear its house' by selling rhino horn

On the other hand, proponents of legal trade argue that they can tightly control the trade by limiting it solely to horn legally taken from living rhinos and legitimate stockpiles, and claim they will use the revenue to support anti-poaching.

WildAid and other conservation groups, however, have warned that legitimising the use of rhino horn by promoting trade can massively increase consumer demand in Asia for a product that is falsely claimed to cure cancer, hangovers and other illnesses.

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