Noelle, Rhino at French zoo
A photograph of the 35-year-old female rhinoceros went viral Image Credit: Twitter

Authorities at a French zoo were outraged after two visitors scratched their names into the back of a rhino.

A photograph of the 35-year-old female rhinoceros with the words “Camille” and “Julien” on its back went viral on social media, triggering an outcry.

La Palmyre zoo in Royan in southwestern France released a statement saying they were “outraged by the stupidity and disrespect” of the visitors. However, they decided not to take any legal action.

Outcry on Twitter

Twitter user @thaimythbuster posted: “Another example why zoos and circuses with animals should go. Imbeciles in a French Zoo in La Palmyre carved their names in the skin of a Rhino. Only in zoos a Rhino can be approached as if it was a domesticated animal.”

And, enraged tweep @frasermatthew added: “Two idiots visiting a #zoo in southwestern French scrawled their names (“Camille” and “Julien”) on the back of a rhinoceros. The 35-year-old rhinoceros is called Noëlle.”

No harm to the animal

According to the zoo director Pierre Caille, the visitors used their nails to scratch their names into a layer of dust, sand and dead skin on the animal’s back. “The animal may not even have realised.” he told AFP.

“We quickly brushed the writing away and there was no harm to the animal”, he said.

While the zoo said “the vast majority” of visitors touch the rhino “respectfully”, French wildlife protection charity Le Biome said it “fell short of standards” for allowing “this type of interaction”.

The zoo’s statement clarified that animal lovers are allowed to touch the creatures when they approach the fence of their enclosure for a “moving” experience, allowing visitors to appreciate the diversity and beauty of nature.

Caille said La Palmyre would consider installing video surveillance in certain areas, but “doesn’t want cameras everywhere”.

Rhinos endangered

Three of the five species of rhino are critically endangered, largely due to the lucrative poaching trade.