Lion Country Safari reacts to rhino killed by poachers at French zoo

Posted at 5:52 PM, Mar 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-08 17:52:29-05

Workers at a zoo outside Paris say they're shocked by the attack on one of its rare, white rhinos. Poachers killed Vince and sawed off one of its horns.

The attack is believed to be the first instance of rhino poaching not only in Europe but in a zoo.

“It’s just an astronomically devastating thought for me,” said David Backus, a lead keeper at Lion Country Safari.

The crime stunned zookeepers around the world, “I can't even imagine what my feeling would be if i came in in the morning and saw what those caretakers saw,” explained Backus.

He cares for 13 rhinos in the park's preserve from the youngest, 2-year-old Blossom, to the matriarch 50-year-old Alice. They're white rhinos. The same species as Vince.

“The area they're in is actually one of the more heavily-guarded areas because they are an endangered species,” explained Backus. “The rhinos and other animals are monitored closely by 24-hour security and the entire park is fenced in.”

“Our security practices were set in order to try to prevent that type of attack,” said Backus. “We are of course more vigilant now as you are with any type of attack.”

In Africa, it's not unusual for rhinos to be poached for their horns. They go for tens of thousands of dollars on the black market. “We're losing three a day,” said Backus. “Those numbers we're not going to have those animals as species.”

He fears if poaching continues, the 20,000 white rhinos left in the world will eventually become extinct.

Lion Country Safari is breeding white rhinos. Staff is hoping for babies by fall next year.

As for bringing justice for Vince, police are reviewing surveillance video and believe the crime could be the work of a very well organized gang.

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