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  1. ITV Report

Poachers shoot dead five-year-old rhino after breaking into French zoo

Vince the rhino had been living at Thoiry Zoo since 2015 Credit: AP

Poachers shot and killed a young rhino after breaking into a zoo near Paris - leaving its carers devastated.

Staff at Thoiry Zoo, 35 miles west of the French capital, turned up at work on Tuesday to find the body of the four-year-old mammal in its enclosure.

Zoo director Thierry Duguet said that poachers had broken into the sanctuary overnight, before shooting Vince the rhinoceros three times in the head.

A chain saw was then used to remove one of his horns, according to Mr Duguet, who described staff as "extremely shocked".

Police are now investigating but the suspects remain at large.

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Vince, a white rhino, was brought to Thoiry in March 2015 after being born at a zoo in the Netherlands three years earlier.

He was living alongside two other rhinos at the park, 37-year-old Gracie and five-year-old Bruno. Both were unharmed during the break-in.

Police believe poachers forced themselves through a gate at the wildlife park during the night before breaking the metal door of Vince's enclosure.

Staff discovered that one of Vince's horns had been completely severed, with the other only partially removed, suggesting the intruders had been disturbed.

Global trade in rhino horn is banned by a UN convention and its sale is illegal in France.

But demand for the horn is strong in Asian countries such as Vietnam, where it is prized as an ingredient for traditional medicines.

A kilo of rhino horn fetched over £44,000 on the black market in 2015, according to Thoiry.

Tuesday's attack is believed to be the first time a rhino has been killed in a European zoo.

The world population of southern white rhino, once on the brink of extinction, has in recent times recovered to around 20,000.