Poachers broke into a French zoo overnight, shot dead a rare white rhinoceros and sawed off one of its horns. This is believed to be the first time in Europe that a rhino in captivity has been attacked and killed.

Keepers found four-year-old male Vince dead in the African enclosure of Thoiry zoo, west of Paris, Tuesday morning, the zoo said.

The poachers broke in through a gate at the wildlife park during the night and forced the metal door of the enclosure where the rhino lived, the zoo said.

Police, who were investigating the crime, said the rhino had been shot three times in the head. One of its horns had been sawn off. The poachers could not remove Vince’s second horn and left it partially sawn.

A kilogramme of rhino horn fetched 51,000 euros ($53,900) on the black market in 2015, according to the zoo.

Global trade in rhino horn is banned by a UN convention, and France outlawed the trade of it last year.  However, poaching has risen as demand for the horn is strong in Asian countries such as Vietnam where it is prized as an ingredient in traditional medicines.

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