HSI calls on zoos to step-up security for vulnerable species following rhino poaching in Paris

Humane Society International

  • Jason Prince/iStockphoto

Following the brutal killing of a four-year-old male southern white rhinoceros named Vince in a zoo near Paris, Humane Society International is calling on the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria to urgently review and improve security protection for vulnerable animals in light of the increased threat from the global poaching crisis. HSI is asking zoos to set up security measures that ensure vulnerable species are watched and protected at all times.

Joanna Swabe, executive director of HSI/Europe, said, “The tragic death of Vince at the hand of poachers at a French zoo is alarming, but sadly, not unexpected. As species like rhinos disappear from the wild, poachers are turning to more ruthless tactics to attain animal parts to smuggle to Asia or sell right here in Europe for a high price. We cannot be complacent about the safety of vulnerable species in zoos such as rhinos, elephants, tigers and giraffes who are trafficked for their parts, as it’s possible that more animals like Vince will be targeted in the future. Zoo associations and the international community must do everything it can to protect rhinos before they disappear forever, and to shield all species from the rapacious poaching criminals.”

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Vince’s tragic killing also highlights the role Europe plays in wildlife trafficking. It is widely considered the third largest destination for smuggled wildlife, being a market, source and transit route for the illegal wildlife trade. A coalition of groups including Humane Society International/Europe recently issued a letter to EU Member States calling on them to make wildlife trafficking a priority issue.


  • Poachers shot Vince the rhino three times in the head, then cut off his horn. This tragic event marks the first known time poachers killed an animal in captivity in Europe.
  • Three rhinos are poached every day for their horns, and last year more than 1,000 rhinos were poached in South Africa, where the majority of the world’s rhinoceroses live. If these poaching rates continue, rhinos could disappear in the next decade.
  • Just two weeks ago, poachers killed two rhino calves and took their tiny horns at a rhino orphanage in South Africa. Poachers also assaulted the animal caretakers. It is a tragic reality that neither baby rhinos nor their caretakers are safe.
  • Rhino horn is valued in countries like China and Viet Nam for purported medicinal benefits, although there is no scientific evidence to back these claims. Horn can be sold for high prices on the black market, but there are indications that the price has fallen recently in Viet Nam, thanks in part to a campaign to reduce rhino horn demand by HSI and the Vietnamese government.

Media contact: Wendy Higgins: whiggins@hsi.org, +44 (0)7989 972 423

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