A pair of visitors to a French zoo sparked outrage after scratching their names into the back of an elderly rhino.
The 35-year-old animal, called Noelle, had the names Camille and Julien etched into her skin at the La Palmyre zoo, which is about 310 miles south of Paris.
Pierre Caille, director of the zoo, said the words had been inscribed using fingernails in a layer of dead skin and mud.
In a statement, the zoo said the managers were “outraged by the stupidity” of the yobs.
It read: “The park’s management is obviously outraged by the stupidity. The registration was quickly erased with the help of a brush and did not cause any discomfort to the animal.
“Our Rhino can position against the wall of their enclosure, close to the visitors, if they wish. When the rhino are against the wall, visitors actually have the opportunity to touch the skin of their back and the vast majority do it with respect.
“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 animal may not have even noticed the graffiti as it was inscribed, according to French news agency AFP.
But people are still furious, with some calling on zoos to be shut down.
Some also commented on the rhino, which they said looked skinny.
One user said: “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 another added: “It is clear that zoos should be abolished.”
The zoo addressed these concerns and assured people that the rhino was in good health.
They added: “Our rhinos have alfalfa available throughout the day and get a supplement of pellets, apples and carrots (and alfalfa again) in the evening.
“This rhino is 35 years old (so not a young individual) and is indeed thinner than the others, but he’s doing well.
“The health of our animals is of course our priority and we take action as soon as a problem should occur.”
La Palmyre, which receives around 700,000 visitors a year, said it is not taking legal action against the unknown vandals.
Rhinos are incredibly scarce not just in the wild but also in captivity due to intensive poaching, with an estimated 30,000 rhinos left alive.
White rhinos are the most common species with around 21,000 left in the wild.
The zoo receives around 700,000 people a year