French zoo visitors carve their names into the back of a rhino

French zoo visitors carve their names into the back of a rhino

Most of us can probably say that we enjoy going to zoos. Having the opportunity to see rare species from around the world in one location is an amazing privilege, and as long as the zoos are well-maintained and large enough for the animals in their care, then they can play a pivotal role in conservation and reintroducing threatened species back into the wild.

However, some people fail to treat zoos with the respect they deserve. Most of us have probably seen people using flash photography to take pictures or seen people banging on the glass to wake the animals up - but this story is a whole new low.

On Wednesday, a French zoo blasted the "stupidity" of its visitors after discovering that some of their guests had scratched their names into a rhino's back.

The sickening photographs were shared on social media showing the 35-year-old rhinoceros with the names "Camille" and "Julien" scrawled into the creature's hide.

Per Fox News, the Palmyre zoo in Royan in southwestern France (roughly 500km south of Paris), said it was "outraged by the stupidity and disrespect" by the guests. The zoo grants guests the privilege to pat and touch the creatures over the fence of their enclosure, claiming this creates a "moving" experience that lets animal lovers witness "the diversity and beauty of nature".

However, the guests in questions abused this privilege and trust, when they used their fingernails to engrave their names into a layer of dust, sand and dead skin on the rhino's back, according to the zoo's director, Pierre Caille.

In a statement on the zoo's Facebook page, officials did say that the names were quickly removed with a brush, and that although they are outraged by the scrawlings, the rhino was not harmed: "The registration was quickly erased with the help of a brush and did not cause any discomfort to the animal."

The zoo ended the statement by confirming that they are now working on strengthening their surveillance and security measures.

PETA - the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - has also responded to the story in a tweet, saying:

"Whoever did this is PURE EVIL! People SCRATCHED THEIR NAMES into the back of an elderly rhino at a zoo in France. Employees suspect the abusers used their FINGERNAILS. Rhinos are not Etch A Sketches — all animals deserve respect."

International news agency Agence France-Presse reported that no legal action will be taken.