French zoo blasts 'stupidity and disrespect' of visitors who scratched names into rhino's back
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Officials at a French zoo on Wednesday condemned the “stupidity and disrespect” of visitors who scratched their names onto the back of a 35-year-old rhinoceros.

The Zoo de la Palmyre in Royan, located roughly 300 miles southeast of Paris, said in a statement on Facebook that they were “outraged” after the discovery of the names “Camille” and “Julien” on the back of a female rhino named Noëlle.


Zoo director Pierre Caille said the visitors used their fingernails to make the etching into a layer of dust, sand and dead skin on the animal's back, AFP reported.

Pictures circulated on social media this week.

"The animal may not even have realized," Caille told AFP. "We quickly brushed the writing away and there was no harm to the animal."

Visitors are able to touch the rhinos when they approach the fence of their enclosure.

“We believe that being able to approach such an animal raises the emotion of the visitor and allows it to raise awareness not only about diversity but also to the majesty of the living around us,” the zoo said in its statement. 

The zoo said the “vast majority” of people are respectful to the animals, AFP reported.

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

The zoo said they will not be taking legal action against the visitors.

Several species of rhino are critically endangered, vulnerable from years of poachers after their horns. Few rhinos survive outside of national parks and reserves, according to the World Wildlife Fund.