"There was no harm to the animal," according to the zoo.

By Helen Murphy
August 27, 2019 04:21 PM
Courtesy Royan News

A French zoo is criticizing the “stupidity” of visitors who reportedly scratched their names into a rhino’s back earlier this month.

According to the Agence France-Presse, an international news agency, a 35-year-old female rhinoceros at the La Palmyre Zoo in Royan, France, was photographed with the names “Camille” and “Julien” written on her back.

Photos provided by Royan News show the rhino with the names on her skin.

Photographs of the animal sparked outrage on social media, and zoo staff responded in a Facebook post, saying that they were “outraged by the stupidity and disrespect” of the visitors but would not be taking legal action, the AFP reported.

Visitors to the zoo are normally allowed to touch the rhinos if they’re standing near the fence of their enclosure, the zoo’s Facebook post explained, saying that touching the animals helps visitors appreciate “the diversity and beauty of nature.”

According to the World Wildlife Fund, three out of the five species of rhinos are critically endangered due, in part, to poaching and habitat loss.

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Pierre Caille, the zoo’s director, told the AFP that the visitors used their nails to scratch their names into the dust, sand and dead skin on the rhino’s back.

“The animal may not even have realized,” he said. “We quickly brushed the writing away and there was no harm to the animal.”

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According to the AFP, the zoo explained that most visitors interact with the rhinos “respectfully,” but a French wildlife protection charity said the zoo “fell short of standards” for allowing visitors to touch the animal.

Caille told the AFP that the zoo is considering installing video surveillance to prevent a similar incident in the future.

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