REUTERS – GETTY
The zoo says it has no choice but to cut off the rhinos horns
The zoo in Dvur Kralove, some 90 miles north-east of Prague, keeps 17 black rhinos and four southern white ones – the largest group in Europe.
But it now says it has now choice but to dehorn the beasts, as a “dehorned rhino is definitely a better option than a dead rhino."
Premysl Rabas, the zoo's head, said in a statement: “The decision to remove rhino horns was not made easily at all.
"However the risk that the rhinos currently face not only in the wild but even in zoos is too high, and the safety of the animals is our first concern.”
A rhino is dehorned by a zoo veterinary surgeon in its enclosure at Dvur Kralove Zoo
Poachers can make thousands from rhino horns
The first rhino to go under the chainsaw on Monday was Pamir, a southern white rhino male – the most common and widespread species of the rhinoceros.
The others have a little wait ahead of them, but all are due to lose their horns in the near future.
The zoo said the rhinos are anaesthetised but the procedure itself is not painful.
A dehorned rhino is definitely a better option than a dead rhino
Get Quotes on Home Insurance
Premysl Rabas, the zoo's head
However rhino horns gradually grow back, reaching full size again in just three years time, so the procedure will likely have to be repeated.
Global trade in rhino horn is banned by a United Nations convention.
But demand in newly-affluent Asian countries such as Vietnam, where it is prized as an ingredient in traditional medicines, has soared in recent years.
Save the Rhino Thu, September 22, 2016
The most endangered rhinos across the globe. Both black and white rhinos are considered at risk due to a surge in poaching to meet demand for illegal rhino horns, primarily in Asia.
Play slideshow Getty Images/Blend Images RM 1 of 25
Black rhinos can run 55 km (34 mi) per hour and make rapid turns of 180' – While White rhinos, which double them in size, can run at a speed of 40 km (25 mi) per hour
And African authorities have struggled to counter rampant poaching – with horns reaching prices of some whopping £49,400 per kilogram making the material more valuable than gold, diamonds and cocaine.
There are five species of the beautiful animals, with the African species and the Sumatran rhinoceros having two horns while the Indian and Javan rhinoceros have one.
Made of keratin, which is similar to human hair and nails, it was historically – and falsely – believed that rhino horns could purify water and detect poisoned liquids, and was often used as an aphrodisiac.
Vince the rhino was shot dead in a French zoo by poachers for its horn
Conservationists have taken proactive measures to stop rhino deaths
The news comes after vile poachers broke into a French zoo on March 7 and killed a white rhinoceros for its £250,000 horn, the first such case in Europe.
The zoo in Thoiry near Paris said unknown intruders had broken security barriers before carrying out the senseless killing of the critically endangered beast.
It took three bullets to fell the five year endangered animal called Vince in its enclosure before the horn was cut off with a chainsaw.
On March 12 Belgium's Pairi Daiza zoo said that it too will take the same route with its four rhinos.