Okay, so the crime in question didn't actually happen in Paris - it took place in nearby Thoiry. But there was no question that it was murder. Criminals entered a French zoo and killed a white rhinoceros, then hacked off its horn. Almost certainly, the crime was motivated by the black-market value for rhino horn, a mass of keratin (again, the same substance as our hair and fingernails) that is purported to have medicinal value in parts of East Asia.
A 4-year-old male white rhino named Vince, seen in a photo released by the Thoiry zoo and wildlife park, was killed overnight Monday by poachers who sawed off his horn. (Arthus Boutin/Domaine de Thoiry via Reuters)
There are plenty of tragedies in the world which are lamentable. What makes the poaching of rhinos so horrible for me, however, is how pointless this is. It's terrible when humans fight and die over money, or access to resources, or political power... but at least you can understand why they are doing. Similarly, when people clear-cut rainforests, or pollute, or overfish the oceans, again, there is a reason why. Here, it's an endangered animal, being killed and mutilated... for TOENAIL CLIPPINGS! For Pete's sake, let's all take up a collection of our toenail clippings and see if we can find a way to pass it off as rhino horn. It's all the same thing!
As a society, we often characterize poachers as poor people, impoverished and desperate to support their families, who make the decision that their livelihoods are more important than animals. Sometimes, that's the case. In other cases, however, poachers are armed gangsters, terrorists without the ideology. This isn't about supporting a family, in these cases, it's about tapping into an insatiable demand and making money out of it. In these cases, they have to be found, caught, and punished.
Of course, responsibility ultimately lies with those who create the demand, and I hope that as that demand dries up, the killing will end.