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This Week, White Rhino And One Of Africa’s Last Great Tusker Elephants Fall To The Poachers

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A white rhino at a French zoo and one of Kenya’s last great tusker elephants have been among the latest victims of poaching.

Poaching is pinpointed for the slaughter of about 20,000 elephants a year, where the early 20th century count of the species has dropped from 3 to 5 million to a dismal 415,000 today.

White Rhino Killed For Horn

In what is believed to be the first incident of its kind in Europe, a 4-year-old white rhino was shot dead by poachers at Thoiry Zoo in France in the morning of March 7. Zookeepers found Vince with one of his horns hacked off using a chainsaw, according to police report.

In what was thought to be the first time a rhino within a European zoo was targeted, Vince was shot three times in the head before the perpetrators sped away with its horn, which commands high prices on the underground market and could fetch up to $60,000 per kilo.

Vince’s second horn was partially sawn and apparently left behind by the poachers, who forced their way into the zoo overnight. The zoo’s other white rhinos, 37-year-old Gracie and 5-year-old Bruno, escaped the killing, the zoo revealed.

The white rhino population had been successfully revived from a nearly extinct population in the late 1800s to about 20,000 members. Poaching, however, has become a growing threat recently, with rising demand from markets such as Vietnam where the horn is deemed aphrodisiac in nature.

France made the ivory and horn trade illegal in 2016.

Tusker Elephant Confirmed Dead From Poaching

Back in Jan. 4 during a routine flyover by a conservation group in southern Kenya, the body of 50-year-old African elephant Satao II was found dead. It was only announced Monday, March 6, and conservationists blamed a poisoned arrow in a “poaching hotspot” in the park.

The tusker — called as such because such elephants’s tusks grow so long and serve as an attractive target for poachers — was discovered with his ivory intact.

The Tsavo conservation team apprehended two suspected poachers two weeks after the body was found. The suspects, allegedly found carrying a firearm and poisoned arrows and bows, were pinpointed not just for the death of Satao II but also for the killing of three other elephants.

“[T]his poaching gang that possibly tried to poach Satao II has been broken forever,” the group declared on its website, as reported by National Geographic.

The conservation park covers more than 16,000 square miles and forms nearly half of Kenya’s conservation land. Monthly flyovers are conducted to gather information on the African elephants as well as the black rhinos, another endangered species.

Satao II died three years after the more gruesome killing of Satao, who was about age 50 when he was discovered with his face hacked off, his tusks taken to be brought to the ivory trade.

Poaching for ivory remains the biggest threat to the tuskers, already listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Banning Ivory Trade

In just a decade, the criminal act has decimated forest elephants in Minkébé National Park, slaughtering approximately 25,000 or 81 percent of the population in what is supposedly a key nature reserve.

The remote area in Gabon acts as a frontliner in the hard battle against poaching, but it has not been spared from threats coming in the country and in neighboring Cameroon. Foreign hunters, for instance, are believed to have emptied the northern and central sections of the 2,900-square-mile park.

Last year, China announced its planned ban of the domestic ivory trade by end of 2017. It followed U.S. pronouncements that it will ban the trade of largely all ivory goods to protect the African elephant.

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