Rhinoceros shot, killed for horn at French wildlife park

This undated photo provided Tuesday March 7, 2017 by the Thoiry zoo shows the rhinoceros Vince, center, at the zoo, west of Paris. A zoo director says the rhino was shot 3 times in the head by poachers. (Domaine de Thoiry via AP)

A zoo director says a 5-year-old rhinoceros at the Thoiry Zoo and wildlife park near Paris has been shot three times in the head by assailants who stole the animal's horn.

Thierry Duguet told The Associated Press that poachers broke into Thoiry overnight and used a chain saw to remove the horn from the rhino named Vince.

Zoo keepers discovered his carcass Tuesday in the rhinoceros' enclosure.

On its Facebook page the wildlife center said, "The whole staff is extremely shocked." 

Duguet says police are investigating and the suspects are still at large.

Zoo officials called the killing a "heinous act" that was carried out despite surveillance cameras and the presence of five staff members living on site.

Animal care officials said two other white rhinos at the facility, Gracie, 37 years old and Bruno, 5 years old, "have escaped the massacre and are safe and sound."

The Thoiry Zoo is famous for its safari park that can only be explored from inside a vehicle.

Officials say the illegal poaching of rhino horns are on the rise, but this is the first time that a zoo has suffered an attack resulting in the death of a rhinoceros.

According to Le Parisien newspaper, a rhinoceros horn can be sold for up to 40,000 euros on the black market because of a strong demand linked to the belief that the horns have aphrodisiac powers.